The Adolescent Brain and Addiction: Funding for Teen Substance Abuse Research and Treatment

Teen substance abuse treatment is an area of youth services that has expanded over the past several decades, and with it, funding for new initiatives, research and programs have also increased.  Let’s take a look at some of the big funders of adolescent research and treatment related to substance abuse.

A significant recent national round of grantmaking in this area deserves notice. These 13 grants from the National Institute of Health will fund landmark longitudinal research of about 10,000 adolescents, and will track them for 10 years. This $300 million dollar commitment will attempt to further our understanding of the influence of substance use — alcohol, tobacco and other drugs — on adolescent brain development.

This represents a big advance for the substance abuse advocacy community since this grant funding will help to identify substance abuse issues earlier, and will likely lead to policies that encourage early intervention for young adults needing substance abuse services. The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Study (ABCD) could have important outcomes that advance the possibility of more young people accessing treatment before substance abuse becomes more habituated in their lives.

Who are some of the big funders in the private foundation world working to discover new ways to help adolescents struggling with substance abuse?

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is one of the major grantmakers in this arena. Hilton is a relatively new but generous funder in this area, with grants starting in 2009 at $250,000 but quickly rising into the millions in following years. One big example: Hilton gave $2 million dollars in 2013 to the American Board of Addiction Medicine for the purpose of establishing a National Center for Physician Training in Addiction Medicine that would educate and train physicians in methods to prevent adolescent substance abuse and intervene early on.

The foundation is heavily invested in the prospects of a model called Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). In 2014, Hilton made a $1.64 million dollar grant to the University of Minnesota Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research to study SBIRT, and in 2013 it gave $2.5 million to Boston’s  Community Catalyst for the purpose of developing “multi-state consumer-led advocacy campaigns to educate policymakers” about SBIRT.

Another grantmaker for teen substance abuse research is the Annenberg Foundation, which between 2005 and 2014 made eight grants to the Center for Living in New York. Several of these grants were to create a “treatment facility and endowment fund for its Outpatient Adolescent and Collegiate Addiction Program.”

Annenberg gave the Center for Living in New York nearly $40 million for this new facility, and another $7.25 million between 2007 and 2010 to endow the Center’s interactive web program. An additional $4.1 million went to the Center for Living during that time for the purpose of creating “the national outreach component of the adolescent addiction treatment program, including the Center’s opening event.”

Open Society Institute is another funder in this arena pushing for new treatment models. From 2008 to 2010, Open Society gave New Futures in New Hampshire $300,000 for the purpose of using “advocacy and communications to drive efficiency and financing strategy that will increase resources for addiction treatment and demonstrate approaches to Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap.”

Open Society also provided repeat grant support to Tarrant Valley Challenge in Texas, giving a total of $600,000 between 2008 and 2010 for the same purpose.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has also funded some newly developing treatment approaches to adolescent substance abuse. In 2012, it gave a grant for $184,500 to the Ibero-American Development Corporation in Rochester, New York, for the purpose of supporting A Civil Approach to Open-Air Marijuana Markets: The Rochester Drug-Free Streets Initiative.

RWJF also gave the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards $144,997 in 2013 for the purpose of analyzing the impact that an innovative packaging regulation in Boston had on youth cigar smoking.

Some of RWJF’s work in this arena crosses over into  juvenile justice reform. For example, RWJF’s Reclaiming Futures initiative gave a $1.6 million dollar grant to Portland University in 2013 for “technical assistance and direction.” That initiative  program works to develop new service delivery models that integrate comprehensive services, including substance abuse treatment, into the plan for youth involved with the courts.

In the corporate foundation realm, Wal-Mart has made a small number of grants for adolescent addiction services, including a 2010 grant for $100,030 to Operation Unite in Somerset, Kentucky, to provide services in substance abuse and mental health. They have also supported youth substance abuse prevention programs with smaller grants in many states including New Hampshire, Virginia, Minnesota, and Texas.

Another corporate foundation making some recent small grants in this area is the Wells Fargo Foundation, which gave Daybreak of Spokane, Washington $10,000 in 2012 for substance abuse services for adolescents. Bank of America Charitable Foundation is another funder that has given small grants in this arena, particularly to state-based Teen Challenge programs.

Many of the other big funders in this arena are community foundations, with a smattering of smaller corporate foundations doing local giving on the issue. One example of a community foundation very active in this arena is The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, which has given approximately 84 grants in this subject area since 2003 and has also been a big supporter of New Futures.

Another community foundation providing support for this work is the Oregon Community Foundation, which gave On Track of Medford, Oregon, $225,000 in 2013 for a community health worker and peer outreach program to “address the risk of suicide and drug/alcohol and tobacco use among low-income and minority youth.”

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