November 17, 2010

Researchers to assess teen substance abuse project

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Researchers from Southern Illinois University Carbondale will be working with therapists from The H Group, a regional human services agency, on a three-year project aimed at helping teen substance abusers in four counties.

Supported by nearly $1 million in federal funds from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the project focuses on both teens and their families or caregivers in Franklin, Jackson, Saline and Williamson counties, providing intensive follow-up services as well as initial treatment. The H Group will deliver the services; SIUC’s Rehabilitation Institute will assess the project’s success.

“My research team started working with The H Group in 2005,” said D. Shane Koch, coordinator of SIUC’s Rehabilitation Counseling and Administration Program and director of addictions studies. “I have four graduate students assigned to this project. Almost all the funding from our portion of the grant will go to training and supporting these researchers.”

This project follows a successful, earlier collaboration between The H Group and SIUC focusing on methamphetamine users. In that program, which wrapped up in January, Koch’s team followed post-treatment outcomes of nearly 200 clients, finding that 97 percent were still off the drug six months later; that same percentage also had avoided new arrests. In addition, the researchers saw a 224 percent increase in the number of clients with full-time jobs. (For more on that story, click here IMBED link to

Kimberly M. Darnstaedt, division director for The H Group, said Koch’s team brought both experience and a high level of expertise to the evaluation process.

“Having an independent evaluator also adds credibility,” she said.

The current effort attempts to teach teens how to deal with problems without resorting to drugs and alcohol by helping them identify their drug-use “triggers,” improving their coping and communication skills, involving them in activities, and connecting them with support systems and community resources. When formal treatment ends, young people receive several months of transitional support with such services as home visits, transportation, advocacy and ongoing support. The program also includes sessions with parents or caregivers.

“We know that with kids, the home environment -- what we call the ‘recovery’ environment -- is critical,” Koch said. “The reality for kids is that their overall success is dependent on their family system for the structure and support necessary for ongoing recovery. Family involvement is a significant factor in preventing a relapse.”

Those interested in the program for themselves or their family members should call The H Group at 618/973-6483.

“Someone will talk with them about whether this program would be suitable,” Darnstaedt said. “If not, a referral can be made to other services within the agency or to other providers in the area that might be more appropriate.”

Darnstaedt anticipates staff will begin working with the first clients in January or February.

“They are going through the training now,” she said. “It’s pretty intensive because this is an evidence-based program (one that relies on data to prove its effectiveness).”

SIUC graduate students Kelsie D. Deppen, Ann M. Johnson-Melvin, Alice W. Mbugua and Matthew E. Sprong also have begun training in the use of the assessment tools involved. In addition, they also will learn how to use the treatment strategies.

“Even though they will not deliver services, such training will better prepare them to evaluate the model,” Koch said.

Data collection will take place when the clients enter the program and at intervals until completion, when the team will conduct final evaluations.

“This will give us a good sense of how kids are progressing through the process,” Koch said.