National Conference on Residential Treatment of Children with Substance Abuse Cites Varied "Success" Rates and Definitions Across Spectrum of Data Sources

National conference on expanding and improving substance abuse treatment for children in residential care

Staff at Bonnie Brae, a residential treatment center for adolescent boys who have been neglected, abused or abandoned (located in Liberty Corner, N.J.), organized a conference of representatives from leading residential treatment providers to identify best practices for the treatment of emotionally disturbed and substance-abusing youth.

The meeting, titled "National Conference on Residential Center Treatment Outcomes," was held November 4–5, 2004 in Basking Ridge, N.J.

Key Results

  • Representatives from 17 institutions attended the meeting, including university researchers, residential treatment center providers and leaders of organizations concerned with the mental health and welfare of youth.

  • Researchers presented outcomes data on youth treated in residential treatment centers. Data came from two national data collection efforts, one state-wide endeavor, three university studies and 10 individual agency and treatment center data collection projects. All of the data sets were aggregated in order to:

    • Assess the "success" of residential treatment centers nationally.
    • Understand the status of data collection efforts in residential treatment centers.

    In all, approximately 12,262 children were represented in the aggregate data set.

Key Findings

  • Conference organizers reported findings from the meeting in a report: Outcomes—Why We Collect Them, What Do they Mean and Where Do We Go From Here: A Report of the Findings of the National Conference on Residential Treatment Outcomes.

    • Data collection is both varied and inconsistent among agencies and treatment centers nationally.
    • Treatment "success" rates vary across the spectrum of data sources.
    • Differing treatment success rates can be explained in part, by the differing definitions of "success" used.

Key Conclusions

  • The disparate nature of the data collected causes problems in the analyses across all agencies.

  • Common definitions of success would be helpful to more fully identify and compare success rates.

  • A short list of common variables should be identified, collected and tracked across all agencies and treatment centers so that benchmarks can be determined and improvements can be based on reliable and valid data.

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