Another Chance Chicago is a home, school, and community-based program that provides services for adolescents with substance use, behavioral health, and co-occurring disorders.

The initiative will teach youth the coping skills they need in the environments where they practice them the most – home, school, and in the community. Technological advances in neuropsychology now allow accurate diagnoses and corresponding treatment through the use of brain imaging and scans. For group therapy, through an advanced avatar technology system available to Another Chance Chicago, clients 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. 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.

A partnership with the area’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) 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 services for substance use, behavioral health, and co-occurring disorders. 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 or trade school 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 each year in Chicago and Cook County by juvenile offenders primarily with substance use and behavioral health disorders. 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 was 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 the teens, who have already displayed issues of irresponsibility, are expected to cross gang territory boundaries and 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 the Bronzeville Community in Chicago, Illinois where he transitioned to the Addictions Counseling field in 1990 and spent 13 of the last 15 years as Team Leader for the Cook County Juvenile Court Drug Program and the Youth Services Division of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC). Max is still 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 use, behavioral health, and co-occurring disorders. He has received numerous awards from the Chicago Public Schools, The Gateway Foundation, TASC, The Star Project, Chicago Department of Family Support Services, and The Archdiocese of Chicago, among others.  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 Co-occurring Disorder Professional (CODP) with an Adolescent Treatment Endorsement (ATE).


Maxie L. Knighten