Monday, August 20, 2007

Teen Challenge Programs Draw Some Criticisms About Methodology, Funding

Excerpt from the Montrose Daily Press (Montrose, CO)

By Maggie Stehr
Daily Press Writer
Published on Sunday, August 19, 2007

According to the organization’s Web site, Teen Challenge programs are the “solution to the addiction crisis.” Since opening in 1958 and with more than 170 centers in the U.S., Teen Challenge officials claim to have cured thousands from drug and alcohol addictions.

But such testimonials have drawn criticisms from some former students, civil liberties experts and addiction specialists.

Some experts have argued that because some Teen Challenge centers and students receive federal funding, the programs violate the separation between religion and government. High success rates have contributed to ongoing governmental support of the faith-based drug treatment program, but not without opposition.

“These figures dramatically distort the truth, as they represent the successful treatment rate of only those participants who do not drop out of the program before completion, which includes less than one-fifth (18 percent) of the total number of students who actually participated,” argued Samantha Smoot, executive director of Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, which promotes church-state separation. In 2001, Smoot testified in Congress that funding for Teen Challenge should instead go towards secular drug rehab programs with stronger medical components.

Other opponents of Teen Challenge have labeled the evangelical groups as cults, alleging psychological abuse and manipulation by staff members.

Vicki Proffit, director of Teen Challenge House of Promise near Olathe, denies such negative claims but acknowledges the program contains a strong Christian focus.

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