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Adolescent Substance Abuse & Mental Health Treatment

More Treatment.  Better Treatment.  Beyond Treatment. Reclaiming Futures is designed to improve the ability to connect youth with effective treatment for substance abuse, mental health or co-occurring disorders. It is essential that communities build a continuum of treatment services that has the capacity to meet the needs of all youth and that the treatment is using research-based treatment practices, including evidence-based models.

Nmerous programs have been proven effective in meeting the unique needs of adolescents with substance abuse, mental health or co-occurring disorders. The Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Project at UNCG's Center for Youth, Family and Community Partnerships compiled Evidence-Based Practice for Adolescent Substance Abuse: A Primer for Providers and Families to serve as a comprehensive introduction to several important evidence-based practices for adolescent substance abuse assessment and treatment. Inclusion in this primer does not constitute an endorsement of a specific approach, but to help communities begin the process of identifying which treatment models may best meet the needs of their youth. There are also other websites that can be explored that may assist in identifying evidence based practices including:

Local teams should collect and analyze data on the availability and quality of treatment in their community to ensure that the number of treatment providers in their network is sufficient to meet the service needs of all youth and that the treatment available matches the treatment needed. Work with the network development or management section in your local management entity – managed care organization that is responsible for the development and maintenance of a network of providers who can meet the needs of clients, assuring choice and that quality services are available.  Local Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils may also be a resource to your community if you identify an unmet need related to treatment services.   

Teams must also work with the appropriate funding sources to ensure that not only are services accessible to youth and families, but that there are also funding mechanisms to support training, fidelity monitoring and other expenses related to implementation of evidence-based programs and/or practices. A quick reference for helping the team to identify evidence based programs includes the following developed by SAMHSA: Identifying and Selecting Evidence-Based Programs and Practices: Questions to Consider

Initiation & Engagement in Treatment

Providers in the community must then ensure that youth and families are accessing the treatment needed and that they are actively engaging clients in services in a timely manner. Youths are more likely to have successful treatment outcomes if they can begin and engage in services quickly. The goal of Reclaiming Futures is that they will initiate treatment within 14 days of completing their full assessment and fully engage in treatment (three service contacts) within the first 30 days of their assessment. 

Court counselors, treatment providers and other community members can play a critical role in youth engaging in the needed services. Some examples of ways to help remove barriers to engagement include:

  • Schedule a client's first appointment while he/she is present for their assessment.
  • Help clients solve any logistical problems involved with starting and staying in treatment, such as transportation, childcare, or ability to pay. 
  • Include family and friends from the beginning so they know how they can support the young person in treatment
  • Use positive reinforcement or incentives to motivate the client to attend treatment and work toward treatment goals
  • Remind clients about appointments
  • Follow-up with clients that don't make an appointment to find out what happened and reschedule.

For more strategies to remove barriers to treatment and recovery, review the NIATx Promising Practices database.