Another Chance Chicago is a home, school, and community-based program that provides substance abuse, mental health treatment, and dual-diagnosis capable services for adolescents with chemical dependency, behavioral health issues, and co-occurring disorders.

The initiative will present individual treatment services and meet our youth right where they are – in the environments where they need to practice their coping skills the most – home, school, and in the community. Technological advances in neuropsychology now allow accurate diagnoses and corresponding treatment through the use of imaging and scans. For group therapy, the youth won’t have to travel. Through an advanced avatar technology system available to Another Chance Chicago, each client can participate in group sessions without leaving home, thus protecting their anonymity and encouraging them to be involved openly and to share freely by way of a laptop computer, a tablet, a smart phone, or a few blocks away at one of Cook County’s federally qualified health centers (FQHC’s). This system will also provide crisis intervention services at the touch of a button, 24 hours a day. All counseling services are billable to Medicaid or private insurances; hence the program will be fully self-sustaining after its initial startup costs.

The worst part is that when I send them to treatment for these issues, the existing facilities are not prepared to handle them.

This FQHC partnership will reciprocally allow Another Chance Chicago to offer primary healthcare services to its clients, as well as enable all of Cook County’s FQHC’s to offer substance abuse and co-occurring disorder treatment to their patients. The care coordination collaboration here is right in line with the federal health care initiative.

Additionally, Another Chance Chicago will either partner with or create community businesses, such as car washes, landscaping, and snow removal services which will provide the youth with legitimate income and work experience. This income can finance the youth’s education – both high school and college – with the desired objective being for the adolescent to graduate from college and either return to the program as a counselor to assist other current and potential offenders, or to move on with a degree in another chosen field of study leading to a successful career.

Hundreds of horrible crimes are committed by juvenile offenders under the influence of drugs and alcohol each year in Chicago and Cook County. The violence and bloodshed among the addicted youth is at record levels. Gang coffers are bursting at the seams with record profits from drug sales. Another Chance Chicago is a viable part of the solution to these and other social concerns of our region by aiding in eliminating the juvenile demand for drugs.

As Team Leader of Juvenile Justice Services in Cook County, I am asked to find out if the adolescent perpetrators of these crimes have substance abuse or alcohol problems, and upon examination, I find out that most of them do, among other issues, like Bipolar Disorder, Attention-Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder, sexual molestation, grief from loss of loved ones, post-traumatic stress disorder from going to bed hearing gunfire and waking up to the same, and more.

The worst part is that when I send them to treatment for these issues, the existing facilities are not prepared to handle them. Either they treat substance abuse, or they treat mental health, but not both concurrently. The teens, who have already displayed issues of irresponsibility, are expected to go to an outpatient facility on a regular basis to receive services, and when they don’t show up, they get locked up again. Residential programs return them to the same environment to repeat the same mistakes. The environments need treatment too. Another Chance Chicago treats both the individual and the environment. They don’t need more jail time like they’re getting. They need all of their issues addressed, including their environments, simultaneously, in the places where their self-management abilities are needed the most, using the best treatment models and technology available. Let us give our youth Another Chance Chicago! We’ll get it right this time!

Meet Maxie L. Knighten

Max Knighten is from Chicago, Illinois where he transitioned to the Addictions Counseling field in 1989 and is currently Team Leader for the Youth Services Division of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC). Max is sought out by judges, probation, drug courts and the criminal justice system throughout the City of Chicago and Cook County for his knowledge in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for adolescent substance abuse and mental illness. He has received numerous awards from the Chicago Public Schools, The Gateway Foundation, TASC, The Star Project, DFSS, The Archdiocese of Chicago, just to name a few.  Max is a member of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health (IABH, formerly IADDA) Conference Committee. He earned his degree Phi Theta Kappa in Applied Science for Addictions Studies from Harold Washington College, and is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), Board Registered Mentally Ill Substance Abuse Specialist (MISA) with an Adolescent Treatment Endorsement (ATE).

Maxie L. Knighten