CONTACT New substance treatment for Colorado youth

As Colorado lurches into the world of legal, recreational marijuana, addiction-treatment physicians like me are gearing up for more patients and working quickly to implement and expand effective treatment programs.

I am pleased to announce that I am part of a team that recently received a grant of $425,000 from The Daniels Fund to implement a protocol, called Encompass, in the substance treatment clinic I serve as medical director. Patient referrals to this clinic have tripled since 2009, the start of the boom of marijuana dispensaries in Colorado.

I can’t express enough gratitude to The Daniels Fund for its support of this clinical care, which is desperately needed in Colorado — the No. 1 state in the nation for adolescent suicide, one of the top states for adolescent addiction and among the last states in the nation for funding of child mental healthcare.

Encompass is the only evidence-based treatment program we know of in the United States that integrates care for psychiatric and substance-use disorders in adolescents and young adults. This integrated approach to healthcare — which is in practice in several other states — is critically important because 80 percent of teens in substance treatment have co-occurring mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, according to the Cannabis Youth Treatment Study (M Dennis, 2004).

It is very difficult for these young people to get clean when they have an untreated, major psychiatric disorder.

Paula_Riggs Encompass is based on nearly 20 years of clinical research conducted at the University of Colorado Denver, and it has been developed by a team of mental health experts on which I am honored to work. Our leader is Dr. Paula Riggs, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Denver. Paula’s profound commitment to helping young people overcome addiction is firmly rooted in decades of evidence-based science outlined here, on her professional bio. She also serves on the board of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (Project SAM), a national initiative that advocates for sensible reforms of marijuana laws that stop short of legalizing the drug.

I invite you to learn more about Encompass, including its:

Training for Encompass practitioners and team members is underway. The program should be fully functional within my clinic before the start of Colorado’s 2013-14 school year.

To learn more about Encompass and determine whether the program should be launched in your community, please contact Dr. Riggs and the Encompass team.

UPDATE, Oct. 28, 2013: Encompass has received additional funding from the Colorado Trust and Colorado Health Foundation. We hope you’ll read more about that exciting development.

About Chris Thurstone

Dr. Christian Thurstone is one of only a few dozen physicians in the United States who are board-certified in general, child and adolescent and addictions psychiatry. He is Director of Behavioral Health Services at Denver Health and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado, where he conducts research on youth substance use and addiction and serves as director of medical training for the university’s addiction psychiatry fellowship program. You can read more about him here.

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