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Phoenix House launches new program to help youth with drug, alcohol problems

By Kaitlin Mulhere, The Keene Sentinel, N.H.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 19--DUBLIN -- Area teens struggling with drug- and alcohol-use have a new option for local counseling.

Phoenix House Dublin Academy has recently launched a summer outpatient program for teens that need short-term, lower-level care.

The non-profit substance abuse treatment center is offering a day program where teens can receive group and individual counseling and participate in recreational activities.

Program manager Samantha Nolte said the program is a good choice for parents who are working during the summer and worried about leaving their teens home without any structured activities. The program is modeled off successful programs that other Phoenix House locations in the New England area offer, Nolte said.

The price of the program will depend on an individual assessment of the teen's needs and the family's insurance.

Phoenix House started marketing the program earlier this month, after a year in which youth substance use issues have been highlighted throughout the Keene community.

Keene High School added a substance abuse counselor to its staff this year, and the school district spent several months updating its policy for dealing with students who are involved with drug- or alcohol-use on school campus or school events. The revised version aims to provide more support to students struggling with the use of illegal substances rather than focusing strictly on punishment.

The policy change came after a study conducted in the fall found that drug- and alcohol-use at Keene High is wide spread, crossing social groups and socioeconomic levels.

And in Keene, like throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, police and medical professionals have been warning of sky-rocketing levels heroin use. Drug overdoses and drug-addicted newborn babies also have been on the rise locally.

According to local substance-abuse professionals, teens in the Monadnock Region consistently rank above the state average in surveys that ask about recent use of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs.

Roughly 25 percent of high-schoolers in the region said they'd drank more than five alcoholic beverages within a few hours within the past month, and about the same reported using marijuana at least once within the past month, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which asks teens about health-related behaviors.

Phoenix House's new program is a way to help children in the community who don't have a severe enough problem to require residential treatment, Nolte said. The Phoenix House in Dublin also has 12 beds for residential treatment.

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Those requiring residential treatment have drug or alcohol addictions that make them unsafe in the community, Nolte said. The day program, on the other hand, is a good fit for youth who are participating in high-risk behavior, making poor choices and could benefit from some structure and education.

The program includes pick-up and drop-off in the Keene area and lunch. Participation is three to five days a week, depending on the level of need.

There's no limit to the size of the program now, but depending on the number of referrals Phoenix House receives, there could be a small waiting list as some point, Nolte said.

The treatment center is considering continuing the program after school resumes and offering after-school counseling, but Nolte said those discussions are only in the beginning stage.

Kaitlin Mulhere can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or kmulhere@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @KMulhereKS.

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(c)2014 The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.)

Visit The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.) at www.sentinelsource.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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