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New Residential Treatment Program Offers Gender Specific Services for Drug-troubled Adolescent Females

Bronx program is NYC’s first publicly-funded all-girls treatment center

In a new approach to treating troubled teen girls, Odyssey House is opening an innovative 16-bed treatment center for girls with substance abuse and related problems, such as emotional or behavioral disorders. The new center is located in a high-service need area of New York City – the Hunts Point Section of the South Bronx.

Join us at 1:00 P.M. on Wednesday, March 28th at 1264 Lafayette Avenue, Bronx NY, for official ribbon-cutting ceremony with Commissioner Karen Carpenter-Palumbo, New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, community leaders and supporters.

State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) Commissioner Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo said, “Governor Spitzer and I believe that everyone in New York State should be provided with a solid foundation in life, and at Odyssey House’s Lafayette Avenue program, these young women are being given the tools to succeed in becoming self-sufficient, independent members of society. This is an innovative program that OASAS is enormously proud to support. During the course of their treatment, these young women are receiving an education, not just in school but in life. Most importantly, they are building a foundation for a better future for themselves, their families and their loved ones.”

The development of a residential program for girls only is in line with a growing body of research looking into the differences in how and why men and women abuse drugs, and the efficacy of gender-specific treatment (see attached briefing).

Findings from these studies indicate that adolescent girls who smoke, drink or take drugs are at a higher risk of depression, addiction and emotional and educational stagnation. And because substance abuse is often accompanied by risky sexual behavior, they are more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease or become pregnant.

Innovative treatment

Dr. Peter Provet, president of Odyssey House, said the creation of a “small, gender specific service, with a high staff to client ratio provides teen girls with the individualized support, treatment, and attention they need to grow into healthy young women.”

One of the innovative treatment approaches Odyssey House is adopting at the center is capitalizing on the power of positive reinforcement techniques. With the support of a private foundation grant, Odyssey House is able to provide each girl who completes treatment (9-12 months of residential treatment including vocational and educational training) with her own laptop computer as a graduation gift to help her future educational and vocational endeavors.

Using technology as a treatment aide gives adolescent girls:

• access to the world of computers and the internet to make them more competitive in their school work;

• marketable job skills; and

• an incentive to remain and fully engage in the treatment process.

Residents also have access to Odyssey House’s agency-wide psychiatric, primary medical care and dental services, vocational training, housing assistance, and recreational/sports programs. The treatment regimen is based on the Therapeutic Community (TC) model enhanced with specialized services that address the developmental, psychological, and educational needs of adolescent girls.

Partnering with OASAS

Odyssey House built the treatment center with a grant from New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) that called for increased resources for intensive, residential treatment services for adolescent drug abusers with related emotional and behavioral problems. The purpose-built, three-story building houses dormitory-style bedrooms with shared bathrooms and common areas, a kitchen and dining room, counselors offices, multipurpose classroom and group meeting room, and an exercise gym. Residents also have access to a private courtyard and small garden at the rear of the building.

Staffing for the 24-hour, seven day-a week program includes full-time counselors (including a program director), family therapist/social worker, kitchen, maintenance, and security personnel, and a full-time teacher funded by NYC Board of Education, Off-Site Education Services.

Being a good neighbor

The brick-faced building is situated in the middle of a mixed-use residential block near city parks, schools, and other services. Odyssey House is an active member of the local community and enjoys support from community leaders who have welcomed this new program and our other Bronx-based services which include an outpatient clinic and supportive housing services.


Odyssey House Lafayette Avenue

Intensive, Residential Treatment for Adolescent Girls

Program description:

  • Substance abuse counseling and relapse prevention seminars
  • Individual, group, and family therapy
  • Peer support groups
    • Activities that encourage bonding
    • Referral to self-help meetings in the community
  • Educational/vocational programs
    • On-site Board of Education high school and GED classes
    • Vocational/Educational training and placement
    • Computer training
  • Life Skills
    • Anger Management workshops
    • Values seminars
    • Conflict resolution groups
    • Self-esteem building workshops
  • Mentoring program
  • Health education workshops
    • HIV counseling
    • Safe-sex education
    • STD education/prevention
    • Smoking cessation program
  • Family mediation and reunification
  • Community involvement
  • Recreational/physical fitness activities.

Girls and Drugs: Recent Trends and Research

Adolescent girls who smoke, drink or take drugs are at a higher risk of depression, addiction and emotional and educational stagnation. And because substance abuse is often accompanied by risky sexual behavior, they are more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease or become pregnant.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), teenage girls are trying marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes at higher rates than boys. The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that:

  • 1.5 million girls ages 12 to 17 started drinking alcohol in 2004, compared to 1.28 million boys
  • Among the same age group, 730,000 girls started smoking cigarettes in 2004, compared to 565,000 boys
  • 675,000 girls started using marijuana in 2004, compared with 577,000 boys. 1

Although there is no single reason why girls are smoking, drinking and abusing drugs more, experts agree that today’s girls live in an increasingly stressful environment; many have self esteem issues, are eager to date older boys or are recovering from physical or sexual abuse.

Consistent with the population profile of adolescent girls entering drug treatment nationally, the overwhelming majority of young girls who enter treatment at Odyssey House come from single parent homes where at least one parent is addicted to alcohol or drugs. Girls in treatment typically abuse marijuana and alcohol, with a minority having tried cocaine and heroin. Most report sexual abuse before the age of 16 and some past or present level of criminal justice involvement.2

But while there is ample data to document that millions of girls are at risk for substance abuse problems, there is little evidence available to empirically document efforts tailored especially to the unique needs of adolescent girls. What evidence there is, however, does point to major differences between adolescent boys and girls in terms of drug abuse.

For example, girls are more likely than boys to become dependent on drugs, and the earlier girls begin using drugs, the more likely their consequent problems will be severe. Also, even among teens with low or moderate levels of risky behavior (experimenting with substance abuse or sex), girls are significantly more likely to experience symptoms of depression.3


1 Girls and Drugs. Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the President, February 2006.

2 US Department of Health and Human Services. (2002). The Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach for Adolescent Cannabis Users, Cannabis Youth Treatment Series, Vol. 4, Rockville, MD.

3 Gender Differences in Associations Between Depressive Symptoms and Patterns of Substance Use and Risky Sexual Behavior Among a Nationally Representative Sample of U.S. Adolescents, Archives of Women’s Mental Health, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 139-150, 2006.

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