“It started out small — just an occasional drink at a party or a cigarette offered by one of the cool kids. But that was in eighth grade. By 10th grade, I was skipping class to smoke marijuana at a friend’s house. And by the time my peers were going to prom, I had dropped out of school and was severely addicted to cocaine. I couldn’t hold down a job, I had destroyed relationships with almost everyone I loved, and I felt sick and nervous all the time. But all I cared about was the high. More than anything I wish someone had intervened, somehow made me see the light, before it went so far.” — Anonymous

The anonymous name attached to this story could easily be filled in by any number of our community’s children. In a California Department of Education survey of Ventura County middle school and high school students, more than 30 percent admitted to having used alcohol or illegal drugs within the past month. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 70 percent of high school students have tried alcohol and 50 percent have taken an illegal drug by the time they reach 12th grade. And it doesn’t always stop at one-time experimentation — according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 1 in 20 U.S. adolescents needed treatment for substance abuse in the past year.

Despite these staggering statistics, there is not currently a local, publicly funded residential substance abuse treatment facility in the Ventura County and Santa Barbara County communities that is focused specifically on youth struggling with substance abuse — potentially leaving these vulnerable children without access to much-needed help, hope and support. This is a serious and unacceptable problem, and Casa Pacifica has made it our mission to implement a solution.

Through our Building New Foundations of Hope capital campaign, we are raising funds to construct two new residential substance abuse treatment cottages — with eight beds each — on our campus. Once complete, these facilities will allow us to offer the 24/7 care and attention our community’s afflicted youth need to heal their bodies and regain control of their lives.

A report by the Child Welfare League of America states that substance abuse is estimated to be a factor in approximately 75 percent of foster care placements. And according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 60 percent of youth who enter substance abuse treatment also have psychiatric disorders. Given Casa Pacifica’s background and expertise providing life-changing guidance to children facing abuse and neglect, family crises and complex emotional and behavioral issues, we believe our campus is a natural fit for these essential substance abuse treatment facilities.

Our planned residential substance abuse treatment program incorporates key advances related to neuroscience, adolescent development and co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. These concepts are applied through specific evidence-based practices, including the Matrix Model, craving identification and management, motivational interviewing, and dialectical behavior therapy. This highly structured program provides a range of individual and group therapies, along with recreation, education, peer support and psychiatric services. Families will also be engaged through family therapy sessions, multifamily groups and psycho-education, helping them move from fear and confusion to hope and confidence about the future.

By the end of a 30-90 day stay at our residential substance abuse treatment facilities, youth will have been given the resources and treatment necessary to emerge with: (1) full detoxification from the physical effects of substance abuse, (2) increased self-awareness and the ability to apply an individualized plan for preventing future relapses, (3) strengthened family relationships, (4) educational support and (5) connections to a comprehensive array of services and support in the community.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 52,400 people died from drug overdoses in 2015. But our community’s children don’t have to add to that number. At Casa Pacifica, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to provide youth struggling with substance abuse the hope and help they need to make lasting, positive changes in their lives — and we encourage you to join us.

To find out more about how you can help us make a difference, please visit www.hopeforcasapacifica.org. We also invite you to visit our campus to learn more about our programs and witness the impact we’re making in the lives of our community’s children firsthand. If you’d like to arrange a tour, please contact Carrie Hughes at chughes@casapacifica.org or 805-366-4011.

Steve Elson, Ph.D., is the CEO of Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families.