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A lesser known Ryther program expands to serve more at-risk youth

Interview with Noel Gomez, CDP

Ryther's Group Care Enhancement program served nearly 800 teens last year, providing Chemical Dependency Professionals to local sites in King County. Noel Gomez, CDP joined John Ohta, CDP who works at Orion Center and University District Youth Center and Gary Hothi, CDP, who works with Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration in the King County parole office, at a new site as part of the Juvenile Justice Assessment Team at the Juvenile Justice Center in Seattle.

What’s your role at the Juvenile Justice Center?

I see adolescents when they come through the intake unit after they are arrested for a crime. I am one of the first people they meet with. First, I will conduct an initial Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) Short Screen with every teen that is arrested in King County. I ask questions about their drug or alcohol use and mental health, such as: “When’s the last time you had significant problems feeling sad, depressed or hopeless about the future?” This takes about a half hour and I see about 25-40 kids a week.

This GAIN Short Screen determines the need for any additional services such as a full GAIN or a substance abuse or mental health assessment or psychological assessment. While Gary Hothi sees teens when they’re already at or have been through Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration, I get to see them after the first time they are arrested. So I see teens from all walks of life at the very beginning of their involvement with the court system. The goal is to get them mental health and/or substance abuse help if they need it. I screen youths who normally wouldn’t have gotten any kind of assessment at all and many of them at this point want help but just don’t know how to ask for it or where to find it. It’s incredibly important to help them before there is a downward spiral. The fact is that 80% of teens with a substance abuse problem are also struggling with some kind of mental health issue. Many teens reach the court system by committing crimes to get drugs. The screen will catch these kids and provide direction for what types of evaluations and help they may need, if any.

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