Expansion of our Early Intervention Drug & Alcohol Program

At Northern Children’s Services, we are meeting the needs of the city to reduce the presence of drugs through youth engagement. Since 2015, our Early Intervention Drug & Alcohol program (EI) is intended to meet the needs of children and youth, ages 9-18, who are at-risk of substance abuse and addiction. 

In 2020, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health published a report, Growing Up Philly, which summarizes the health and wellbeing of Philadelphia children (0–17 years).  The purpose of the publication is bring awareness, identify disparities, and increase knowledge of children’s health.

Data from the report shows that unhealthy teen (13-17 years) behaviors are on a substantial decline. From 2013 to 2019 alcohol consumption has decreased from 33 percent to 17 percent. In fact, the amount of Philadelphia teens consuming alcohol was lower than the national average (30 percent) in 2019. Additionally, tobacco use is on decline, decreasing by 70 percent from 2015 to 2019.However, there is still a lot of work to be down to decrease risky behaviors such as vaping, marijuana use, prescription pain medicine.

“I have done assessments where kids started smoking at 9 and starting drinking at 12, so having programs like ours is a necessity,” said Dr. Dawn George, Northern’s Director of Outpatient, Wellness and Early Intervention.

Northern’s EI program is held in several different settings.  On our campus, groups are held for two of Northern’s programs:  Generations I, a group foster care program for pregnant and parenting teens mothers, and the Wellness and Resiliency Program, a therapeutic all-day summer and after school program for youth with behavioral health and emotional needs. We also partner with schools, and community centers. Groups are currently run at Strawberry Mansion and Simon Gratz High Schools, and at North Light Community Center. These groups run for 8-12 weeks discussing preventative measures related to drugs, alcohol, gambling, violence and more. The program’s focus is on safe, culturally competent, and trauma-informed environments to develop healthy coping and decision-making skills.

“While we don’t focus on gun violence, it is important to talk about because we understand the intersectionality of high-risk behaviors and we want to acknowledge it in our Early Intervention Program,” said Marlynn Ray, Northern’s Early Intervention Specialist.

The most important gauge of success is the feedback we receive from past and current program participants. The youth have reported that they look forward to working in groups and find the activities fun. This positive feedback has resulted in increased referrals, new partnerships, and interest from other schools and community centers.

Northern’s staff bring expertise and experience in adapting the curriculum based on the population served.  This expertise and experience include extensive backgrounds in behavioral health, as well as clinical and non-clinical services.

Northern’s future goals for EI are to expand our reach in the community by providing more groups in schools, on campus, and other systems that serve youth such as the Juvenile Justice Services Center of Philadelphia. Northern plans to continue to play a significant role in reducing obstacles to the healthy development and futures of young people across the City of Philadelphia.

To learn more about Northern Children’s Services Early Intervention Drug & Alcohol Program contact Marlynn Ray at 215-482-1423 ext. 1007 or mray@northernchildren.org.

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