The initiative, which started in 2017, is being undertaken in partnership with the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) to educate juvenile offenders and minors about substance abuse and to offer treatment.
The START comes on the heels of the findings of the NCDA’s 2016 Household Drug Survey, which indicated that one in every six males and one in every 17 females admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol and using illegal drugs.
The survey also revealed that over the review period, alcohol usage and underage drinking among youngsters aged 12 to 14 and 15 to 17 stood at 10.1 percent and 19.1 percent, respectively.
Additionally, it showed that 18 years is the average age of first-time users of cannabis, with males beginning at age 16 and females, 20.
Director of the Probation After-Care Office at the DCS Janet Davey told JIS News that START is designed to encourage teens to stop abusing alcohol, drugs, and prescription medications.
She notes that drug addiction, misuse, and abuse have caused severe impacts on young people and have contributed to crime at the community and national levels.
Davey says Probation After-Care officers have noticed a trend of heavy use of substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and illegal and prescription drugs among the juveniles in State care.
“To ensure that the program works, it is introduced to all the children who enter the correctional institution. We screen to identify the teens that are heavily involved to get a clear picture of their knowledge of substance use and misuse. This is to ensure that all teens understand the dangers of drug use and to identify who needs immediate attention based on their involvement with the substance,” she explains.
The director informs that after a child has been sentenced by the court, the probation officer steps in to perform their role in assessing the youngster, regarding background and circumstances.
This assessment is used to provide social reports to the courts, recommendations for rehabilitation, reintegration methods, and for effective and appropriate sentencing of offenders who exit corrections facilities back into the community.
Davey points out that if a child does not have a drug-related issue, the educational component of START is still administered.
“There have been 21 child offenders who were assigned community-based sentences for substance-related issues islandwide, and 37 children have benefited from the START program since inception,” she shares.
“Once the substance abuse officers from the NCDA receive referrals, they conduct further assessments to determine the nature and extent of the problem and design a treatment plan to suit juvenile offenders,” she adds.