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Troy L. Wheeler

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Strategy: Easy Access to Prevention and Treatment Services

Strategy When a community provides easy access to prevention and early intervention services, these services reach youth and adults . . .

Strategy

When a community provides easy access to prevention and early intervention services, these services reach youth and adults who would otherwise go unassisted.

Drug Problem Addressed

Because of family, social, economic, or environmental factors, some children, and their parents, are particularly vulnerable to using alcohol and other drugs. Some troubled families fail to get help because services are too expensive, inaccessible, or unavailable during convenient hours.

Key Components

High-risk young people often need special intervention and drug-related services. Often, their parents also need assistance. Easy-access prevention and intervention services can be located at schools, churches, housing complexes, day-care centers, community centers, or storefronts. They can provide free family advocacy services, tutoring, family counseling, parenting classes, assistance for students who have been suspended or are in danger of being suspended from school for drug-related offenses, and information and referral to other community resources. Neighborhood-based assistance can also be extended to runaways, homeless youths, juvenile offenders, and youths who have been removed from home for their protection.

Key Partnerships

Community-based service providers must be part of a network that includes schools, parents, youth groups, and the local juvenile justice system. These providers must share information and coordinate services to identify and serve high-risk individuals.

Potential Obstacles

Often, at-risk individuals do not seek assistance until there is a crisis, and parents who are burdened with socioeconomic difficulties are often unsupportive if their children are in trouble. Many parents find it difficult to attend meetings or counseling sessions because of transportation problems, lack of child care, or restrictive job requirements. Others are apathetic or fearful regarding assistance programs.

Signs of Success

An OSAP evaluation of one easy-access intervention program for high-risk youths found that four of five major risk factors--frequency and amount of drug use--had been reduced in participating youth. OSAP also reported improved adolescent-adult communication.

Applying the Strategy

Pittsburgh's Addison Terrace Learning Center is located in a public housing project where many youths and their parents are involved in drug use. The center teaches parenting skills through a parent forum, has a child-care program and on-site playroom for the children of parents who seek treatment, and offers an on-site, income-producing print shop and job training for adolescents.

In Atlanta, the Bridge (Operation Higher Ground) program provides emergency shelter and counseling for runaway or homeless youths. The goal is to replace high-risk behavior, which can lead to or exacerbate drug use, with healthy behavior. In collaboration with Atlanta's public school system, the Bridge also operates an alternative school for youth who cannot attend regular classes while in a shelter. The program is part of National Families in Action.

The House Next Door, in Deland, Florida, offers family therapy to youths in trouble with drugs and to their families, with parent-training services in the homes of participating families. The program has documented a high rate of client retention and a decrease in drug use among youths.

From 350 Tested Strategies to Prevent Crime: A Resource for Municipal Agencies and Community Groups

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