Kids with substance abuse problems and early contact with law enforcement are being treated with a new public health approach.
Many kids with drug problems get no treatment in juvenile detention facilities, according to Reclaiming Futures (http.//reclaimingfutures.org), a nonprofit that helps kids in trouble with drugs and crime.
With a $2 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Reclaiming Futures is setting up a three-year pilot program called SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment).
SBIRT will be folded into several diversion programs. Evan Elkin, special projects director for Reclaiming Futures, will be the clinical director of the program, according to Stell Simonton with the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.
“The first arrest is a great prevention point.
It’s a great opportunity to catch
a kid when a behavior issue has first emerged”
“The first arrest is a great prevention point. It’s a great opportunity to catch a kid when a behavior issue has first emerged,” said Elkin.
The SBIRT process includes an assessment using a brief questionnaire and a trained interviewer.
When kids indicate risky behavior, the interviewer provides information and motivation for change.
When SBIRT is adapted for use in juvenile justice, police and probation officers may be the ones administering it, says Simonton.
Law enforcement will be trained to use a “lighter touch” than they usually do in talking to kids about drugs. They will learn to ask with curiosity, to express interest, and to elicit the context of a kid’s use, said Elkin.
They will be trained to suggest options, rather than dictating the kid’s next move, Elkin said.
Though the SBIRT has not been widely used in the United States, the Hilton Foundation sees it as a promising model.