"Portable" Substance Abuse Treatment Model Helps Teens in the Juvenile Justice System and After Their Release

The Vera Institute of Justice partnered with the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice to develop, implement and conduct an outcomes evaluation of a model treatment program for juvenile offenders in the New York City juvenile justice system who meet clinical criteria for substance abuse or dependence.

Adolescent Portable Therapy or APT, as the model is known, provides drug treatment services to serious adolescent drug users under age 16. Services begin as soon as youths enter detention and continue without interruption through institutionalization and their return to family and community. The same therapist works with a youth throughout the treatment period.

Key Findings

  • More than 50 percent of youth enrolled in Adolescent Portable Therapy remained for at least 90 days of treatment in the community after their release.

  • Family functioning improved in the families of teens receiving Adolescent Portable Therapy. During the course of the intervention, the proportion of treatment families reporting an increase in "positive" family functioning rose from 70 to 80 percent, compared to a decrease among families in a control group that did not receive the therapy from 75 to 65 percent during the same time.

  • Substance use declined among youth who received Adolescent Portable Therapy. Three months after youths were released from detention and beginning treatment in the community, their alcohol and marijuana use declined significantly, compared to youth in the control group.

  • Adolescent Portable Therapy significantly reduced depression and traumatic stress among youth receiving treatment compared to youth in the control group.