The primary purpose of this study was to test a strategy for enhancing the capacity of juvenile drug courts (JDC) to reduce youth substance use and criminal behavior by incorporating components of evidence-based treatments into their existing services.
Six JDCs were randomized to a condition in which therapists were trained to deliver contingency management in combination with family engagement strategies (CM-FAM) or to continue their usual services (US). Participants included 104 juvenile offenders (average age = 15.4 years; 83% male; 57% White, 40% African American, 3% Biracial). Eighty-six percent of the youths met criteria for at least 1 substance use disorder, and co-occurring psychiatric diagnoses were highly prevalent. Biological and self-report measures of substance use and self-reported delinquency were assessed from baseline through 9 months post recruitment. Results: CM-FAM was significantly more effective than US at reducing marijuana use, based on urine drug screens, and at reducing both crimes against persons and property offenses. Such favorable outcomes, however, were not observed for the self-report measure of substance use. Although some variation in outcomes was observed between courts, the outcomes were not moderated by demographic characteristics or co-occurring psychiatric disorders. Conclusions: The findings suggest that JDC practices can be enhanced to improve outcomes for participating juvenile offenders. A vehicle for promoting such enhancements might pertain to the development and implementation of program certification standards that support the use of evidence-based interventions by JDCs. Such standards have been fundamental to the successful transport of evidence-based treatments of juvenile offenders. (Published abstract provided)