The RWJF Reclaiming Futures Initiative: Improving Substance Abuse Interventions for Justice-Involved Youths



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      Laura Burney Nissen, Ph.D., M.S.W., National Program Director of Reclaiming Futures in Portland, Oregon, has spent the last 16 years as an advocate, researcher, and developer of strength-based service delivery systems for youths in a wide variety of treatment and juvenile justice settings. A founder of the Center for High Risk Youth Studies at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, Dr. Nissen is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Social Work, Portland State University.


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      Jeffrey A. Butts, Ph.D., M.S.W., is a Research Fellow with the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, where he teaches in the School of Social Service Administration. His recent research projects have investigated teen courts, juvenile drug courts, the coordination of substance abuse treatment, and juvenile court delay. Dr. Butts is the former director of the Program on Youth Justice at the Urban Institute and former senior researcher at the National Center for Juvenile Justice.


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      Daniel M. Merrigan, Ed.D, M.P.H., has been engaged in numerous national substance abuse/treatment, research, education, training, and leadership initiatives for the past 30 years. He is a former Associate Dean for Practice and current Associate Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the School of Public Health at the Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine. He served as Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-sponsored Join Together National Leadership Fellows program.


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      M. Katherine Kraft, Ph.D., M.S.W., is a national expert on environmental approaches to promoting healthy behavior. A former Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, she developed the organization's innovative “Reclaiming Futures,” program, which integrates treatment systems and community involvement opportunities for youths caught in the juvenile justice system. She serves on several national task forces including the Surgeon General's Report on Youth Violence and the current National Academy of Science Report on Healthy Youth and Family Development.

Chapin Hall Center for Children University of Chicago 1313 East 60th Chicago, IL 60637 E-mail:

Graduate School of Social Work Portland State University 527 SW Hall Street, Suite 486 Portland, OR 97201 E-mail:

19 Andrews Lane Princeton, NJ 08540 E-mail:

Boston University School of Public Health 715 Albany Street, Talbot Building Boston, MA 02118 E-mail:


Juvenile justice systems in the United States do not always respond effectively to substance abuse problems among young offenders. In 2002, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched a 10-community demonstration project to address this problem. Reclaiming Futures (RF) relies on community partnerships to improve treatment quality, strengthen local leadership, expand inter-organizational collaboration, and create systems of shared performance management. The initial findings of a cross-site evaluation suggest that Reclaiming Futures is yielding important and positive change. Bi-annual surveys of key informants measure the quality and integration of juvenile justice and substance abuse treatment systems in each community. Of 13 indices measured by the surveys, 11 showed significant improvements between 2003 and 2005.