Toward an Effective Treatment System for Adolescents with Substance Use Disorders

At a 2002 national summit co-sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, representatives called the current treatment system “inadequate and underdeveloped,” and based on adult models for treatment. They identified the urgent need for a comprehensive systems approach to treat adolescent substance use disorders.

As a result, SAMHSA/CSAT created the State Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Coordination Grant Program (SAC). While 47 states and the District of Columbia applied for grants, only 16 states received three-year grants of $400,000 each.

SAC grantee states reported substantive systems development in the following areas:

  • Collaboration: Established or expanded cross-agency workgroups.
  • Financing: Developed plans to coordinate funds to support treating adolescents.
  • Family involvement: Forged new partnerships with family members of youth struggling with substance use disorders.
  • Workforce development: Increased training opportunities for treatment clinicians and staff.
  • Evidence-based practices: Improved the use of screening and assessment instruments.
  • Sustainability: Identified various changes resulting from the SAC grant that will be maintained.

“The SAC grant's spotlight on system inadequacies, coupled with shared knowledge, support and emphasis on accountability, motivated the changes realized in all of the states,” the authors write.

This article is part of a special issue of Children and Youth Services Review on the RWJF-funded Reclaiming Futures program.