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Family Services Enhancement

Adolescent substance abuse continues to be one of society’s most difficult problems. National data closely reflects studies on Phoenix House’s adolescent treatment population in California. Among the youth in the Phoenix House programs, 46 percent began using drugs before the age of 12, 57 percent are one or more years behind in school, and over 50 percent have experienced the death of someone close to them.  In addition, 51 percent have perpetrated violence, 47 percent have been the victims of violence, and 32 percent meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  In addition to violent trauma, substance-abusing adolescents are at significant risk of such serious health consequences as HIV, STDs, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and pregnancy, as well as developmental and neurological damage, cirrhosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and the various consequences of poor nutrition. 

Researchers have recognized that involving parents and other family members in the recovery of adolescents is among the most critical aspects of treatment.  Increasing evidence indicates that adolescents have greater success in schoolwork, substance abuse treatment and the transition back to their communities when their families actively participate in their treatment beginning at the time of assessment through the completion of residential treatment when youth have the greatest threat of relapse. The goal of the Family Services Enhancement (FSE) program, with support from The California Endowment and the Alliance Healthcare Foundation, was to strengthen and expand the Phoenix House Family Services programming to improve the quality and access of services, while enhancing a program that promotes healthy behaviors, thus improving the health and well-being of San Diego youth and their families.  The project provided services to 320 non-duplicated youth and their families between August 1, 2006 and December 31, 2008.

The Criminal Justice Research Division of SANDAG conducted a two-year impact evaluation of the Family Services Enhancement project by following program participants through treatment and up to 6 months after exit to evaluate whether or not the expected positive effects of the project were realized. Data collected from standardized assessments, program staff interviews, and follow-up interviews with clients and their family members showed that program clients were dealing with multiple issues including severe substance use, mental health symptoms, and delinquent behavior. Exit and data follow-up data showed that youth made positive gains in regard to substance use, school/employment participation, and delinquency.

Project Manager

Sandy Keaton, Senior Criminal Justice Research Analyst
Phone: (619) 699-6933, Email:

For media inquiries, please contact the SANDAG Public Information Office at (619) 699-1950 or