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October 2003Vol. 4, No. 8CASASTART Program Helps Deter Drug Use and Violent Behavior in At-Risk Youth

CASASTART (Striving Together to Achieve Rewarding Tomorrows), a program of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, helps high-risk preadolescents resist alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs and avoid violent behavior. Its effectiveness has been demonstrated by an independent outside evaluator, and it was recently featured on the Promising Practices Network as a "proven" program (

CASASTART's goals are to provide youth with the services and support they need to become productive, law-abiding citizens and to create a safer environment for adolescents and their families through the reduction of crime and illegal drugs in their neighborhoods. To attain these goals, CASA brings together key stakeholders in a community, including families, schools, law enforcement agencies, and social service and health agencies.

Individuals are identified for participation based on three areas of risk: family risk, which includes violence or disintegration; personal risk, which includes being a victim of abuse or neglect; or school risk. Each participant receives case management services as well as social support, family services, education services, after-school and summer activities, mentoring, community policing/enhanced enforcement, juvenile justice intervention (if needed), and incentives.

Research found, 1 year after program completion, CASASTART participants were significantly less likely than a control group to report:

  • Drug use in the past month (52 percent vs. 67 percent)
  • Lifetime sales of drugs (37 percent vs. 46 percent)
  • Drug sales activity in the past month (14 percent vs. 24 percent)
  • Committing a violent crime in the past year (22 percent vs. 27 percent)

CASA began the program in 1992 with funding provided by three constituent agencies of the U.S. Department of Justice and several national foundations. From 1992 to 1995 the program was tested in six cities. It currently operates in nearly 40 schools around the country.

More information about CASASTART can be found on the CASA website at (Editor's note: this link is no longer available).

Related Items

Read more about the link between childhood maltreatment and later substance abuse in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • "Study Identifies Link Between Childhood Abuse and Drug Abuse in Adulthood" (June/July 2003)
  • "Researchers Find Biological Link Between Child Abuse and Increased Likelihood of Later Substance Abuse" (April 2002)