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Orange County Juvenile Substance Abuse Treatment Court

Ages 0-18

Rating: Level 3


The Orange County Juvenile Substance Abuse Treatment Court (JSATC), in its design and operation, resembles other drug courts operating across the country. The program targets first-, second-, third-, and fourth-time juvenile offenders with no history of violent offense who are in need of substance abuse treatment and reside in Orange County, Fla. Individuals enter the program on a voluntary basis or by order of a judge. Participation is encouraged by offering diversion from prosecution or reduction of charges upon completion of treatment. While most participants receive outpatient treatment, a few receive inpatient services.

Treatment services concentrate on “breaking behavioral patterns of addiction, changing irrational thinking patterns to rational thinking patterns, enhancing motivation for treatment, and providing exposure and access to supportive influences, as well as meeting educational and vocational needs and developing life skills.” Outpatient services include individual sessions, group sessions, family meetings, and educational services. The length of stay in the outpatient treatment program ranges from 4 to 8 months, with an average stay of 6 months, depending on the individual’s identified course of care and progress in the program. Participants are required to attend treatment sessions and regular meetings with the case manager, observe a curfew, appear in court for case reviews with a supervising judge, and abide by all local, State, and Federal laws.


The evaluation employed a single-group quasi-experimental design with pretest and posttest measures. Data on participants was collected by JSATC between the August 1997 program inception and October 1998. During this period, 329 youths were referred to the program; however, only 100 youths were eligible to participate. Thirty-three of the participants were actively involved in the program at the time of data collection. Twenty-eight had graduated, and the remaining 39 youths had exited the program owing to noncompliance or family relocation. Of the initial 100 participants, over 80 percent of the participants were male, 54 percent were white, 35 percent were African-American, about two thirds were in school. About 80 percent were not employed. The overwhelming drug of choice for program participants was marijuana.

This study examined three aspects of the program’s effectiveness in assisting juveniles with drug problems.

  • Postrelease recidivism rate as found in official arrest data.
  • The identification of predictors of success or failure in the program, including demographics, substance use, social history, criminality, and motivation.
  • Pre–post examination of the effects of drug courts on youths’ overall level of social and psychological functioning, using the Children’s Global Assessment Scale (CGAS).


The JSATC evaluation demonstrated a 61 percent retention rate, comparable with the national average for adult drug courts. Of those released, 42 percent successfully completed the program. Those who did not successfully complete the program (57 percent) were dismissed for noncompliance with program requirements. Predictors of failure in the program included higher levels of drug use at admission, shorter participation in treatment, and less family support for treatment. African-American youths were more likely to fail than members of other ethnic groups.

Social and psychological functioning were compared, based on the results of the CGAS between entry and release. Fifty-seven percent of the participants experienced improved rates of social and psychological functioning. CGAS scores of 70 percent or more indicate normal functioning. In this case, at admission, 97 percent scored 70 or less, and the highest score was 78. At exit, nearly 38 percent scored above 70, and the highest score was 94, indicating significant improvement. Predictors of improved functioning included successful completion of the program, enrollment in school, having no prior offenses, and good attitudes toward receiving treatment.

The overall recidivism rate of discharged clients was 15 percent, with a rate of 7 percent for program graduates and 21 percent for program failures.


Applegate, Brandon K., and Shannon A. Santana. 2000. “Intervening With Youthful Substance Abusers: A Preliminary Analysis of a Juvenile Drug Court.” The Justice System Journal 21(3):281–300.

Technical Assistance Provider

Annmarie Karayianes
Drug Court Coordinator
2000 East Michigan Avenue
Orlando, FL 32806
Phone: (407) 836-8968
Fax: (407) 836-7599
Web site: