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Odyssey House Grant Focuses on Teens and Their Families

Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly

Last month Odyssey House received a three-year grant from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) for the program’s Bronx Outpatient Clinic. The OASAS grant is funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and is aimed at serving adolescents who have a substance use disorder, as well as their families.

The grant was one of two grants made in the entire state — Odyssey House “downstate” and Citizen Advocates, Inc., based in Franklin County in northern New York, “upstate.” Each grant will expand treatment to 200 additional adolescents over the course of the three-year period.

“The unique needs of young people are often overlooked by mainstream treatment providers,” said OASAS Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez in announcing the awards. “We need to improve access to treatment for adolescents and the quality of that treatment by expanding the use of nationally recognized evidence-based programs.”


Like many of the treatment communities in New York City, Odyssey House has a history of working with special populations. In addition, Odyssey House focuses on innovations, said Peter Provet, Ph.D., president and CEO of Odyssey House. “We had to find innovative ways to work with these populations,” he told ADAW.

Innovations are critical, said Provet, noting that treatment programs need to always be on the lookout for new ways to treat patients. “We cannot just create factories and stamp out the same product,” he said. “There’s always a tendency to do that as an industry matures — to codify, simplify and mass-produce.” Innovations also play a role in obtaining grants such as the OASAS grant, he said.

The Bronx grant is meant to prevent ongoing drug abuse by “targeting kids where they are,” said Provet. Many prevention programs did not take this comprehensive approach in the past, he said. “You would go to a school and give lectures; you had D.A.R.E.,” he said. But the didactic approach isn’t as effective as “engaging kids on various fronts. This grant affords us the ability to go into the kids’ homes, get to know their families, go into their schools, to work with them individually, within family therapy constructs, help them keep journals, and reflect,” he said.

Work with families

The program is based on a successful model from a recently ended SAMHSA grant that Odyssey House kept going after the funding expired, explained Gary Harmon, Ph.D., Odyssey House vice president and the director of research. After an initial assessment in the clinic, counselors will work with teens ages 12 to 17 on the continued engagement with treatment over six months. “The counselors will go into the home, meet with guidance counselors at the school, do journaling, be assessed by the GAIN,” Harmon told ADAW (GAIN is an assessment tool). “We’ll be doing outreach to the schools.” Assessments will be done at six months, with a follow-up six months later.

The grant is in the South Bronx, which is the poorest congressional district in the country, said Harmon.
“When you bring high-quality evidence-based practices to these teens, it really makes an impact,” Harmon said. More than half of the teens in the program are involved in multiple systems, including juvenile justice. By looking at the patient — not just as a patient, but as a client of multiple systems all funded by the state — the impact is multiplied as well, said Provet. “We are at the matrix of criminality, substance abuse, education — all of these issues are impacting our children,” Provet said. “That’s why we’ve gotten these grants.”

The program is “labor-intensive,” said Provet, noting that it takes a lot of time and energy to reach teens and their families. “OASAS was able to get from SAMHSA enough money to support two of these grants,” he said. “I hope there will be a lot more. We have a huge teen drug problem, and we need more than two grants to address it.” •


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