The governor gets it right on residential treatment

When Governor John Lynch unveiled his budget plan last week, he proposed revenue enhancements and cost-cutting measures — both necessary to get us to a balanced budget.

He got it right when he proposed closing some residential treatment facilities and prisons, saying that we can no longer afford to invest in systems that are not producing results. In times of economic crisis such as these, we need to be asking ourselves: is there a better way?

In terms of what to do with troubled youth in our state, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Many other states have explored alternatives to costly residential care for youth and discovered that for many of these kids there are proven alternatives that are far less costly and produce better outcomes.

Connecticut, for example, deinstitutionalized the majority of their troubled youth years ago and is currently reaping the benefits of moving to a carefully researched, more affordable, intensive community-based alternative. The program that has had the greatest impact with challenging at-risk youth in that state (and elsewhere) has been Multi-Systemic Therapy, or MST.

What makes MST so effective? Services are focused, intensive, pragmatic and delivered in the same environment where the youth and family live (home, school, community)—not in an artificially controlled environment. This allows the program to target the factors that contributed to the problematic behavior and develop solutions that fit for the family and work in the real world. It also gets the state out of the role of being a surrogate parent, while at the same time offering an estimated $17 million annual savings.

We have a tradition in New Hampshire of being fiscally prudent, pragmatic and keeping solutions local. We have an opportunity inherent in this budget crisis to rethink the way we work with our at-risk youth. It is not often that we get presented with solutions to difficult problems that truly can create a win-win situation, but I believe we have one here.

I salute the governor for advocating smart choices and putting us on the right path.

Craig D. Amoth of Hopkinton is executive director of Familystrength, a provider of home-based behavioral and health services.

Categories: Opinion