Welcome to the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs

History of Alcohol and Drug Treatment for Youth

California's alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment system was established to address adult treatment issues and needs and focused primarily on adults. Historically, the prevailing thought was that prevention and early intervention services were sufficient to meet the needs of youth. However, there is strong evidence that even experimental AOD use among young people compounds other problems, and can lead to greater levels of substance abuse, violence, crime, school failure, mental health problems, out of home placement, and increased medical care. Comprehensive services, including AOD treatment, are needed to address these complex problems.

The existing AOD treatment system capacity and funding did not provide the quantity and quality of services that youth require. The traditional adult-designed service approaches were not relevant or appropriate for youth, and California lacked standards of practice, appropriately qualified and trained staff, and health and safety protections for youth.

In 1998, the Legislature responded to the emerging need for youth-specific treatment. Assembly Bill 1784 (Baca, Chapter 866, Statutes of 1998) was enacted that established the Adolescent Treatment Program (ATP) and appropriated the first youth-specific AOD treatment funds (approximately $5 million annually) for 20 counties. In 2000, $2.66 million of federal youth treatment discretionary funds were made available statewide, as well as $5.7 million of state general funds (the $5.7 million was eliminated from the budget the following year).

In 1999, ADP established a youth treatment workgroup made up of individuals with a wide range of expertise in areas specific to youth. The workgroup completed a set of best practices to ensure that youth intervention and treatment services are safe, appropriate, and cost effective. These best practices have become the Youth Treatment Guidelines, which focus on ways to specialize treatment for youth.

In 2001, seven counties were selected to participate in the Youth Development and Crime Prevention (YDCP) Initiative, a model system of coordinated and comprehensive services for youth who are engaged in, or at high risk of, juvenile crime. The Department of Mental Health and the Employment Development Department coordinate with ADP to fund and oversee this project.

In 2002, ADP created a Youth Treatment Section. The section created a strategic plan, along with stakeholders, to address the challenges presented by youth substance abuse in California. Part of that plan was to address the gaps in infrastructure that still exist in the emerging youth treatment system.

Youth Treatment Certification Standards

After completing the Youth Treatment Guidelines, the standards workgroup continued to meet through April 2003 to develop minimum standards to protect the healthy and safety of youth in AOD treatment. These youth standards will be part of ADP's voluntary certification process, and ADP is working on incorporating them into the existing Alcohol and/or Other Drug Program Certification Standards More information about certification of alcohol and other drug programs is available from ADP's Licensing and Certification Division.