Few resources for teen addicts

Mother worries about options for 15-year-old son

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COEUR d'ALENE - The clock is ticking.

Shandi Gustin's 15-year-old son is due to leave the county's Juvenile Detention Center in just a couple of weeks and she is worried and scared.

Her son has been in and out of the facility since he was 12 and busted for petit theft.

Now, he's serving time for probation violations related to a malicious injury to property charge.

He is also, his mother says, struggling with an addiction to spice - an illegal, synthetic marijuana - and it has made him paranoid, irritable and violent. Inpatient addiction treatment might help her son, but Gustin said she has run into endless roadblocks trying to find a facility in Kootenai County that treats teens.

"I'm not going to be one of those moms that finds my kid in a morgue. That's not going to happen," she said. "I can't get anybody to give me some answers. I believe it's because they can't get me answers and they can't show me resources, because they don't have them."

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare directory of substance abuse providers lists only one facility in the five northern counties that provides residential or inpatient treatment for teens - Anchor House, run by the Idaho Youth Ranch.

Dr. Bob Ball, Idaho Youth Ranch's senior vice president of programs, said there is a definitely a lack of substance abuse services for children and teens. Anchor House only has 12 beds.

Good Samaritan Rehabilitation, a non-medical, Christian faith-based residential recovery program, recently began accepting teens. There are four teens in the program now, Pastor Tim Remington said, with plans to add four more beds in the future.

With multiple kids and one income in the family, Gustin said the costs of private-pay facilities are impossibly more than her family's means can handle.

"I just want somebody to help me," she said. "I'm trying to be responsible for my kid, but I'm not rich. I'm poor. I can maintain my household and that's about all I can do."

The state, in some cases, will fund substance abuse treatment for teens.

Idaho's Department of Juvenile Corrections has some funding for treatment, according to Rosie Andueza, program manager for Idaho Health and Welfare's Division of Behavioral Health.

Funding is also available through Optum, the company managing the state's mental health and substance abuse treatment for adults and children enrolled in Medicaid. Health and Welfare also has funding available.

To qualify for assistance, individuals must first be screened by Business Psychology Associates, another state contractor. There is a BPA representative in each region of Idaho, Andueza said.

Anchor House, and Daybreak across the border in Spokane, are the only two area facilities in the state's network which provide residential treatment for teens.

The Department of Juvenile Corrections can mandate treatment, as can judges for participants in the state's juvenile drug courts, Andueza said.

Though Anchor House receives state funding for some residents, the facility also accepts private referrals.

"We assess what they can afford and we'll make sure we get services and finances don't get in the way," Ball said. Donations and proceeds from Idaho Youth Ranch are also used to fund Anchor House.

Though Good Samaritan's program costs $2,500 per person, Remington said the community has provided much support. One of every four people in treatment at Good Samaritan is sponsored.

Gustin hopes making a public plea - and educating the community on the lack of resources for teen addicts - might help her find the help she is looking for before it is too late.

Her sister, who battled a meth addiction, killed herself. She's worried her son could hurt himself, or others.

"My son is a piece of my heart," she said. "Without him, I would be devastated. I'm not going to lose another family member from this."

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