Substance use prevention services in juvenile justice and behavioral health: results from a national survey [2020]

This study examined the national availability of substance use prevention (SUP) within juvenile justice (JJ) and their primary behavioral health (BH) providers, and the relationships between the availability of SUP and agency-level measures of organizational structure, staffing, and youth characteristics. A three-stage national probability sampling process was used to select participants for a national survey that included, among other facets of community supervision (CS) and BH practices, questions on agency characteristics, youth characteristics, whether the agency/provider directly provided SUP services, and whether the agency/provider directly provided substance use and/or mental health treatment. This paper focuses on SUP services along with agency/provider and youth characteristics related to providing SUP.

The response rate for both CS agencies (n = 195) and BH providers (n = 271) was 96%. Complex samples logistic regression initially examined univariate associations of each variable and identified candidates for a final multivariate model. Overall, only one-third of CS and BH providers reported offering SUP services, with BH providers being significantly more likely than CS agencies to provide SUP services. In addition, likelihood of SUP was significantly lower among agencies where the substance use distribution of the caseload was below the median. Controlling for master’s level staff and the substance use distribution, CS agencies were about 67% less likely to offer SUP when compared to BH providers.

Given the high rates of substance use among justice-involved youth and that substance use is an established risk for several negative behaviors, outcomes, and health conditions, these findings suggest that evidence-based prevention services should likely be expanded in justice settings, and perhaps included as part of CS programs, even when youth do not initially present with SU service needs.

Rodney Funk, Hannah K. Knudsen, Larkin S. McReynolds, John P. Bartkowski, Katherine S. Elkington, Ellen H. Steele, Jessica M. Sales & Christy K. Scott
Health & Justice, volume 8, Article number: 11 (2020)