Project ADAPT, made possible through a $140,000 federal grant awarded to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department, is open to local families and will provide and allocate necessary counseling and education on a case-by-case basis, Kevin Schiller, director of Washoe County Social Services, said at a press conference Friday.
“We need to start asking ‘How do we get them to cope differently?’ ” said Schiller, whose department saw almost 1,000 kids last year. “We really need to start investing in our kids.”
Formed as an all inclusive, one-stop program and the first of its kind to Washoe County, Project ADAPT will provide vocational and GED training, tutoring and, if applicable, counseling and substance abuse treatment.
And according to a 2005 study conducted by the nonprofit organization Join Together Northern Nevada, substance abuse among youth is an alarming trend. Almost 22 percent of middle school students admitted to using marijuana in the past 30 days compared to 8.1 percent of high school students.
In regards to methamphetamine use, the same study found that 5 percent of middle school students admitted to having tried it at least once compared to 10.2 percent of high school students.
Agencies involved in Project ADAPT include the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Washoe County Juvenile Services, Washoe County Social Services, the Washoe County School District, Children’s Cabinet, Quest Counseling and Consulting and Join Together Northern Nevada, all of which will offer applicable services to deserving youths.
Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley originally proposed such a program after receiving the federal grant in hopes of reducing the number of repeat youth offenders who eventually pass over into adult correctional facilities.
“Washoe County has a high dropout rate, a high suicide rate and a low contribution rate to education — that makes it challenging,” Haley said. “About 70 percent of the folks we have in the (adult) facilities are in direct violation of drug laws or suffer from mental health problems because of substance abuse. Simply punishing crime isn’t a full strategy.”
When initially forming the program, Haley contacted the nonprofit, anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids to provide statistics and research data to help indicate successful treatment methods.
Robert Tessaro, the national membership director for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, said the scope of Project ADAPT will hopefully assess substance abuse issues before they become problems.
“When these youth are put into jail, they only learn more anti-social behavior,” Tessaro said. “This prevents that.”
According to an analysis from Washington State, research-based programs such as Project ADAPT, which cut aggression and substance abuse among youth, can save anywhere from $15,000 to $75,000 per offender in reduced custody and repeat crime costs, Tessaro said.
Such saving, Haley said, couldn’t come at better time for the county.
“The cost of public safety is rising and revenues are decreasing,” Haley said. “We cannot afford to lose another child to inefficiencies. We need to stop people from offending.”
In hopes of easing the referral and navigation process through services, the Children’s Cabinet center, located off Rock Boulevard and Longley Lane, will serve as the main hub, taking in referrals and requests for services.
“A lot of kids think that it’s ‘just marijuana,’ ” said Kathleen Sandoval, program director of the family youth interventions department for The Children’s Cabinet. “But it’s a gateway drug. At least 92 percent of our kids here have experienced (a drug of some sort). We need to let kids know that there are alternatives to drugs.”
For more information about Project ADAPT, contact Sandoval at the Children’s Cabinet at 352-8090.