UNM Regulation Clinic Companions with ADOBE Program to Give Beforehand Incarcerated Youth a Brighter Future :: College of Regulation

March 5, 2021 – Annie Swift

Adolescence can seriously affect a child’s life. According to national studies, around 70% of young people previously detained suffer from relapses. Many of these teens live with serious substance abuse and mental health problems that disrupt their education and private lives. Dr. Andrew Hsi, Professor of Family and Community Medicine and Pediatrics at the Medical School of the University of New Mexico, founded a groundbreaking program to address the needs of adolescents incarcerated at the Bernalillo County Youth Services Center (“YSC”). ). The ADOBE program has reduced the relapse rate from 70% to just 21%.

The ADOBE program provides medical, mental health, navigation, and educational services to previously incarcerated teenagers and their families. The medical team consists of a primary care pediatrician, a nurse, a psychiatrist and a nurse who provide support within two weeks of an adolescent’s discharge from the YSC. The youth work with an educational association that helps identify their strengths, areas for improvement, future goals, and advocate for any educational services required. A home navigator addresses unhealthy social determinants such as housing and rental resources and facilitates access to food, clothing, and utilities.

The ADOBE program also works with the UNM School of Law’s clinical program to provide legal services to adolescents and their families. The clinic’s students advise on various legal issues, including housing and eviction, social benefits, guardianship, domestic violence, child custody and child support, and emancipation. Dr. Hsi commends the clinic for reducing the racial and ethnic differences often associated with access to legal resources. He notes that the ADOBE program has worked with many color families who never thought they could afford legal representation. The UNM law students open doors that might otherwise have remained closed.

UNM Law Professor Sarah Steadman has supervised the Child Family and Justice Clinic (“CFJC”) students working with clients of the ADOBE program. Professor Steadman describes how the CFJC students become fully integrated into the ADOBE provider team through continuous collaboration. Clinical students work with their ADOBE clients at home and in the health clinic to minimize transportation barriers and ensure that meetings are held in a trustworthy environment. Law students must use both their holistic problem-solving and empathic skills to function as effective social justice advocates.

3L’s Sarah Hyde and Emily Nitschke worked as co-counsel in the CFJC and provided direct services to ADOBE clients. They met with Dr. Hsi and the ADOBE team to ensure that customers receive holistic and interdisciplinary support. As Emily notes, “no one experiences legal problems in a vacuum.” The students needed the advice of medical and social experts to help them face their clients’ various problems. For example, they consulted with Dr. Hsi on the interfaces between addiction treatment and custody issues. Many of their ADOBE customers have dealt with other traumatic experiences, including homelessness, gang violence, and sexual abuse. The CFJC provides an invaluable opportunity to teach students firsthand traumatized advocacy.

The amazing partnership between the ADOBE program and the students at the CFJC Clinic will continue to serve vulnerable youth as they emerge from the juvenile detention system. This essential work is helping so many young people find stability and strength as they deal with serious health, housing, and legal issues.

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