Cook County Circuit Court receives $1 million grant for Lawndale teens
Released on 5/10/2012 6:00:43 PM

The Cook County Circuit Court has received a $1 million grant from Reclaiming Futures, a national program of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to improve drug and alcohol treatment for local teenagers in juvenile court.

"I am grateful to The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for recognizing the Circuit Court of Cook County’s award winning reform efforts in the Juvenile Justice Division," said Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans. "This grant will assist the court in its acclaimed community-building approach to reducing juvenile substance abuse and delinquency, which creates community solutions that serve the individualized needs of children."

Court officials will use the award to pay for a four-year effort to serve up to 350 teens annually in Chicago’s Lawndale community, where drug treatment services are needed. Planned services include adding uniform screening of teens entering the justice system, improving more timely access to treatment, and helping teenagers return to school or enroll in alternative programs. In 2002, Reclaiming Futures gave the court a $250,000 grant to plan the project.

"America’s juvenile justice system faces a public health crisis," says Laura Burney Nissen, Ph.D., director of Reclaiming Futures, which awarded the grants to Cook County and nine other communities. "As many as four out of five of the two million young people who enter the justice system nationally each year have an alcohol or drug problem. Even though research shows that treating alcohol and drug abuse reduces crime, saves money, and builds stronger communities, the vast majority of young offenders receive no treatment at all."

"We want to change this," says Dr. Nissen. "Our grants will create plans model programs in Cook County and elsewhere in the United States to show how we can reinvent treatment, judicial and social services to meet this urgent need."

Juvenile Justice Division Presiding Judge Curtis Heaston praised the Reclaiming Future program. Judge Heaston said that services and treatment for minors will be culturally and gender sensitive and involve "a cross-section of community-based entities that serve the Lawndale community, including social service agencies, faith-based and community organizations, and academic and public health agencies."

Reclaiming Futures is a new approach to helping teenagers caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime. A five-year, $21 million initiative launched by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Reclaiming Futures promotes new opportunities and standards of care in juvenile justice for young people with drug and alcohol problems. For more information, visit