$2.3-Million Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant Expands Reclaiming Futures

New funds expand innovative model that helps turn teen lives around.

    • May 14, 2009

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced a new $2.3-million grant to support adding three more project sites to Reclaiming Futures, a proven national model that is helping young people break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime, currently in 23 communities across the country.

“This generous new investment—plus the $3.6 million in grants announced by our federal partners last month for juvenile courts that use Reclaiming Futures—lets us test and refine techniques for spreading the Reclaiming Futures model efficiently and effectively,” says Laura Nissen, Ph.D., national director of Reclaiming Futures and associate professor of social work at Portland State University. “It also will bring changes to these communities that will help thousands of young people get the support they need to turn their lives around.”

Most teens that end up in juvenile court have a substance abuse problem. Researchers at Columbia University, for example, found that four out of five teens in the juvenile justice system are under the influence of alcohol or drugs while committing their crimes. And in spite of research that shows treatment helps reduce recidivism, most juvenile courts aren’t set up to detect and treat substance abuse or to provide mental health and other important services.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched Reclaiming Futures in 2002 to address these urgent needs by reinventing how juvenile courts work. The initiative brings together judges, probation officers, treatment providers, families and community members to improve drug and alcohol treatment for young people in trouble with the law. During a five-year pilot phase, 10 communities created and tested a new six-step model that screens teens for drug and alcohol problems, assesses the severity of substance use, provides prompt access to a treatment plan coordinated by a service team, and connects teens with employers, mentors and volunteer service projects. 

“The unique approach of Reclaiming Futures—more treatment, better treatment and beyond treatment—recognizes the critical relationships between our health and the environments where we live, work and play,” says Kristin Schubert, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This not only helps the young people the initiative serves overcome the social barriers that stand in the way to better health, it also plays a vital part in helping to fulfill the mission of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to improve the health and health care of all Americans.”

An independent evaluation in 2006 by the Urban Institute and the University of Chicago's Chapin Hall Center for Children found that the Reclaiming Futures model works. Reclaiming Futures pilot communities reported significant improvements in juvenile justice and drug and alcohol treatment and positives change in the way juvenile justice and substance abuse agencies communicate and cooperate.

The new $2.3-million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports the addition of three new Reclaiming Futures sites funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funds also provide technical assistance and training to support the 23 existing Reclaiming Futures communities.  


About Reclaiming Futures 

Reclaiming Futures is an initiative created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that offers a new approach to helping teenagers caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime. Soon to be in 26 communities across the nation, the program has received additional investments to spread its model from RWJF, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. The national office of Reclaiming Futures is housed in the Regional Research Institute of the Graduate School of Social Work at Portland State University.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.

Most Requested