The project aimed to reintegrate into the community, youth involved in the justice system who were leaving residential addiction treatment programs. Participants were connected with a one-to-one support worker. Together with the worker, youth developed goals and received support in achieving these goals. Reintegration workers connected youth with appropriate community-based programs and services to help them make smart choices and avoid drugs and crime. Support included: reintegrating youth into their home communities; helping them obtain services when they could not return home; and supporting and connecting youth with appropriate local services to help them with such things as obtaining employment, finishing their education, and creating supportive connections in the community.
The project was carried out by PLEA Community Services in Vancouver, B.C. It was a three-year pilot project that cost $488,000 and treated 64 youth.
Youth involvement in the Reintegration Project was completely voluntary. Youth were able to access support at any point following their discharge or withdrawal from PLEA’s two residential addiction programs—Daughters and Sisters (for girls aged 12 to 18) and Waypoint (for boys aged 12 to 18). These two residential treatment programs operate as an alternative to custody.
PLEA Community Services, in consultation with the McCreary Centre, assessed the project. Since the start of the project in June 2009, 118 youth were eligible to participate in the Reintegration Project; 64 chose to do so, while 54 did not.
Comparisons were made between the youth who chose to participate in the program after leaving the residential addiction programs, and those who chose not to participate. Follow-up questionnaires were completed with youth at specific follow-up points after leaving treatment. The youth reported on how they are functioning in key life areas such as alcohol and drug use, criminal behaviour, family relationships, peer relationships, school, work, life skills, community connection, living environment, physical health, positive pastimes and overall benefit of treatment. The questionnaire ended with the question: “Overall, how much have you been able to maintain the positive changes you made at Daughters & Sisters or Waypoint?” These reports were done at one, three, six, nine and twelve months post treatment.
There were significant differences in the long-term treatment outcomes of the youth who participated in the Reintegration Project compared to the youth who did not. The participants reported significantly better outcomes, including reduced alcohol and drug use, less crime, better living environments, higher school involvement and employability, and overall benefits, as compared to those youth who did not participate. This is important because there were no discernable differences between the youth who chose to participate in the Reintegration Project and those who chose not to participate. Specifically, there was no difference in age, gender, ethnicity, level of need or risk, motivation at intake or treatment outcomes.
The Reintegration Project demonstrated that success was not determined by whether or not youth had completed the program in the two residential treatment centres. Transitioning from a highly structured addiction treatment centre can be challenging for youth. Research shows that there is a need for ongoing follow-up services post treatment. Services to youth need to be voluntary, youth-driven, flexible and accessible.
The Reintegration Project was a very successful program. The Reintegration Project has shown that youth who are provided with individualized support are able to maintain their positive treatment outcomes, specifically, reduced substance use and involvement with the criminal justice system.
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