Creating Alcohol and Drug Treatment for Juveniles: Recent Efforts and Ongoing Challenges

Dorie Klein, Public Health Institute

All studies to date suggest that a large number of youth in the juvenile justice system have alcohol or other drug (AOD) problems that might require treatment. Studies also suggest that a minority of these youth actually receive services to address these problems, either in the juvenile justice system or through referral to community-based treatment. At the same time, however, there is evidence that a majority of youth in the existing publicly funded treatment sector are in fact mandated juvenile justice referrals. This underscores how much more capacity and capability are required for adolescent AOD-oriented services. This paper describes recent policy initiatives in California to initiate such services on a statewide basis with which the author was centrally involved through needs assessment, evaluation, and standards development facilitation. The focus is on identifying and explaining the systemic existing challenges encountered in these initiatives. These inclujde dilemmas related to inadequate or inappropriate funding, conflicts over target populations and needed services, and ambivalence about standards of practice based on recognizing knowledge of effectiveness.

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Updated 05/20/2006