UAMS to Start Delta PROMISE for Treating Teen Substance Abuse

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – About 180 teenagers with substance abuse problems will be able to get help from a grant recently awarded to a team at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Psychiatric Research Institute (PRI) for providing treatment in a part of the state where no such services exist.


The grant will fund a collaborative project, Delta Positive Reinforcement of Minors to Increase Self Esteem (PROMISE), that partners the PRI and Counseling Services of Eastern Arkansas to develop substance abuse treatment services in Phillips and Lee counties, part of the state’s Delta region.


Delta PROMISE will target 12-18-year-old, high-risk adolescents with mental health and substance use problems with treatment techniques designed to promote positive development, competency and coping skills. 


The project is funded by a three-year, nearly $900,000 grant from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The effort is expected to begin providing services in early 2007.


“A UAMS survey of stimulant use by adults in that region was able to find without difficulty more than 200 users of cocaine or methamphetamine willing to participate in the survey, so we know there is a problem,” said the project’s lead investigator, Teresa Kramer, Ph.D., PRI associate director and associate professor and chief psychologist for the Department of Psychiatry in the UAMS College of Medicine. “In many cases, substance abusers begin using drugs at an early age, so this project gives us a chance to address that problem through intervention.”


Delta PROMISE will use positive reinforcement – rewarding good behavior – to encourage adolescents not to use drugs. By enlisting schools, families and the community, Kramer said, the project seeks to promote positive types of behavior that motivate participants to avoid drugs and stay in school as well as encourage them to spend more time with non-substance-abusing peers and family.


Local advisory boards will be established to find ways to support the project and participants. Kramer said those boards would include teachers, principals, juvenile justice authorities, church leaders, mental health counselors, substance abuse prevention specialists and family members who would develop components of Delta PROMISE based on community needs and resources.


Initially, all youth receiving services through Counseling Services of Eastern Arkansas will be screened for a substance use disorder and, if positive, will be referred by their therapist for participation in Delta PROMISE. Kramer said that as the program grows, other adolescent-focused organizations and agencies can be trained to identify youth with potential problems for referral to the program. 


Co-investigators for the Delta PROMISE project are Nicola Conners, Ph.D., an assistant professor for the Department of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine, and Laura Butler, director of children’s services for Counseling Services of Eastern Arkansas.


Kramer said if Delta PROMISE proves successful, the team hopes to expand the program to other areas.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with more than 9,400 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.5 billion a year. For more information, visit