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Losing a lifeline.

Byline: The Register-Guard

The outlook is ugly for teenage girls with substance abuse problems. School is history. The chance of pregnancy with the likelihood of an at-risk baby soars. That's followed by the really bad stuff: homelessness, jail, disease and early death.

Willamette Family Treatment Services in Eugene knows how to help young women caught in the deadly grip of addiction. Eighty girls with drug and alcohol problems have received potentially life-saving treatment there in the past three years thanks to a $1.8 million federal grant.

But the grant runs out on Oct. 1, and valiant efforts to find replacement funds at the county, state and federal levels have come up empty. Maybe these girls should hitchhike to New Orleans. Their chances might be better there.

The teens' prospects aren't good here if they lose access to Willamette Family Treatment's services. Most of these girls come from homes where the adults abuse drugs and alcohol. Sending them back home without the tools they learn to use in treatment is a ticket to relapse and worse.

Willamette Family Treatment's female therapists and teachers help the girls find something they've lost, or maybe never had - an ordinary life, with regular meals and a safe place to sleep, absent the chaos of homes ruled by drugs and booze. The girls, ages 12 to 18, spend one to three months at Willamette Family learning to live a clean and sober life. They also learn how to take care of themselves, and, if need be, how to care for their babies.

Just as the Willamette Family lifeline is about to be cut, surveys are sending ominous signals about increased drug and alcohol abuse by young girls in Oregon. For the first time, more of the state's eighth-grade girls reported drinking more alcohol than their male counterparts, according to the Oregon Healthy Teens survey.

Girls also are seeking treatment for methamphetamine addiction at a higher rate than boys - 1,001 entered residential treatment for meth in 2004, compared with 742 boys.

The loss of funding for Willamette Family's adolescent program is part of a sad and shortsighted trend in Lane County to abandon treatment options for teens. The list of respected recovery programs no longer available to local teenagers includes the Sacred Heart Adolescent Recovery Program; Oregon Trail Adolescent Treatment Center; Prevention & Recovery Northwest; and the ACES adolescent program.

Funding cuts have slashed the number of drug and alcohol treatment beds at the five-year-old John Serbu Youth Campus in Eugene from 21 to seven. The program at Serbu, called Pathways, provides the only residential treatment in Lane County for boys.

Lane County residents have shown that they understand the need to provide treatment for teenagers. Recent surveys indicate that they're willing to accept a modest beer tax to fund the programs. State Sen. Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield, has tried repeatedly to introduce legislation allowing imposition of such a tax, but the powerful malt beverage, wine and restaurant associations have made sure the bills died swiftly.

Unfortunately, swift death can be more than a metaphor for teenagers addicted to drugs and alcohol, and they'll lose access to yet another treatment option in just a few weeks. Meanwhile, Oregonians can take comfort in the fact that, despite these tragic funding problems for teenage treatment programs, they'll continue to enjoy the lowest beer tax in the nation.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Funding ends for girls' addiction treatment plan
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 11, 2005
Previous Article:Every student has a right to advanced classes.

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