In 2001, the Princeton, N.J.-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced its Reclaiming Futures Initiative, which helped 10 pilot sites develop ways to handle youth with substance abuse problems entering the juvenile justice system. At $21 million over five years, it is pretty much in the same conversation as JDAI and Models for Change among major, foundation-led JJ reform plans. It also has what both of those foundations can only dream of, for now: the support of OJJDP.
The initiative used its new paper on model substance abuse policies to make it known that the model was "ready for export." The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will spend $6 million over the next four years to create a learning collaborative among its 10 pilot sites and 12 new locations. The foundation will also continue to support three juvenile drug courts in partnership with OJJDP and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
RWJF is still looking for those 12 new sites, so interested parties should check this page out to receive an announcement when the call for proposals is ready (probably February 2009).
A Chapin Hall/Urban Institute evaluation, published by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, found that the RWJF initiative had improved coordination between juvenile justice and substance abuse services on 12 of 13 measured indicators.
RWJF's approach is sort of like JDAI, but with an exit strategy. That isn't a knock by any means; JDAI leadership is just more intent on maintaining control of its brand. RWJF's approach seems to be funding the effort of its 10 sites modestly to improve 12 more systems, essentially to prove that this can be done with basic information sharing.
In the meantime, RWJF will use two advocacy fronts to help the model's national prospects. First will be a push for federal and state policies shifts that are favorable to helping substance abuse and juvenile services work together; the ones mentioned in this report include ending the prohibition of substance abuse treatment services within the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program (that's a mouthful); granting an exception to the Medicaid rule barring expenditures on people in public institutions to juvenile inmates; and educating state leadership about the use and limitations of Medicaid funds in JJ work (like these guys did in New Mexico).
It's also funding the creation of a juvenile justice blog (like we need more of those! I kid, I kid), which of course will report on all things Reclaiming Futures and feature guest writers and other juvenile justice news. More on that when it launches.