New York City’s LGBT Center is set to pilot a youth-focused substance abuse program to combat the overwhelming trend of LGBT youth suffering from substance addiction.
LGBT youth are 190 percent more likely to abuse substances, says the center, and they are also far more likely to become addicted.
“They’re not abusing substances casually,” said Carrie Davis, the Center’s Chief Programs and Policy Officer, about a recent study. “They were binge-drinking or they were drinking every day, and half of the youth in our survey used marijuana 20 or more times in a month. One in five have used heroin at least once in the last month.”
The program, which The Center has named “SAINT” (Serving Adolescents in Need of Treatment), is the first of its kind in not just New York, but the entire world, according to The Center.
“We have not been able to find any other youth and young adult-focused LGBT substance abuse treatment programs anywhere,” Davis explained. “We’ve found some minor interventions that people have created, but the idea that [LGBT] youth might need treatment services is sort of off the map.”
According to Davis, LGBT youths struggling with substance abuse are often placed in programs that view their gender or sexual identity as part of the problem. These programs therefore lack the cultural competency to properly treat them.
SAINT will separate itself from the pack, not only because of its focus on LGBT youth, but because of its focus on providing a LGBT community for the patients to immerse themselves in.
“You don’t become who you are in isolation, you become who you are in reflection to the people you were around, the community you’re connected to,” Davis laid out. “Our young people have an innate drive, all young people, to be around people like themselves. LGBT youths need spaces like The Center and other settings to come to understand what they want to be as an adult. Treatment should not be something that’s disconnected from that.”
Davis couldn’t say when the program would officially begin accepting patients. However, Davis was excited that the program (which was first conceived in 2012) was making headway to reality, thanks in part to grants from the New York Community Trust and another private foundation.
“The impetus for this came from the young people themselves. Our young people told us that they needed help in doing this,” said Davis. “We were really tied in closely with the community and they were telling us that they needed resources. And we weren’t able to find the right resources for them. And at a certain point, we felt like the best way to do that was to do it ourselves.”
Matt Lee is a Web producer for Metro New York. He writes about almost everything and anything. Talk to him (or yell at him) on Twitter so he doesn’t feel lonely@mattlee2669.