Youth drug intervention program launched in Bristol County (Published 12-5-08)
Standard-Times correspondent
December 05, 2008

DARTMOUTH — Thirty representatives of the area's criminal justice and social service agencies came together on Thursday at the Bristol County Jail and House of Correction for the introductory session of Reclaiming Futures, an approach aimed at giving adolescents with drug problems the support they need to stay out of jail and lead successful lives.

"The vision here is that communities will reclaim youth through comprehensive, individualized, community-based responses to substance abuse and delinquency," said Dan Merrigan, a Reclaiming Futures coach and professor at Boston University School of Public Health. "What we know is that treatment works, and we know that treatment is less expensive than incarceration or detention. Good treatment works. Appropriate treatment works. Matched treatment works. Adult models of treatment don't necessarily work for young people. What works for young boys may not work for young girls."

The Bristol County Sheriff's Office recently was chosen as a Reclaiming Futures site and will be receiving approximately $180,000 from the organization to enhance communication between agencies, identify and assess adolescents in need, and provide supportive follow-up programs.

According to Mr. Merrigan, reaching out to the families of troubled youth is key.

"When families are enlivened and empowered and they unleash their potential they can make things happen. It is how any major social change has happened in this country," Mr. Merrigan said.

The six-step approach of Reclaiming Futures includes initial screening, initial assessment, service coordination, initiation, engagement and completion.

Although youthful offenders are currently screened and offered drug treatment, said Reclaiming Futures supporter Judge Bettina Borders, the new approach will create a more comprehensive and timely response.

"This area has a very rich history of doing collaborative work. Reclaiming Futures is going to provide us with technical assistance to help us through collaboration to improve the outcomes of drug-dependent, criminally-involved youth rather than just locking them up," she said.

Five area leaders have been tapped to be fellows of the program; they will exchange ideas with fellows in the 23 sites throughout the country and help train people in this area. They will also be attending a meeting in Washington, D.C.

The Bristol Country Reclaiming Futures Fellows include: Pamela Talbot, project director with the Sheriff's Office; Judge Borders; Karen Blanchette from Seven Hills Behavioral Health; Deidre Lopes from H.O.P.E. Collaborative; and Probation Officer Stella Rebeiro. Mr. Merrigan will serve as the area coach.

The application was prepared by Ana Arruda, grant writer for the Sheriff's Office.

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