Recently, Sons of the American Legion made a $3,000 donation to support the Seacoast Community Diversion Program (SCDP) at The Chase Home, which works with at-risk youth and families across the Seacoast and state.
“The program is so important because it reaches kids and youth either in trouble with the law or in crisis,” said Chase Home Executive Director Meme Wheeler.
While the program is supported by evidence-based research and mandated by the state as an option in every community, it does not receive financial support.
“There is legislation to change that, but that is still a couple years off,” she said. “In the meantime, we depend on individuals, businesses and local organizations like Sons of the American Legion.”
According to a recent study of 444 youth who went through a diversion program in New Hampshire, 79.3% were arrest-free one year later with 58.7% arrest-free after three years. Both percentages are substantially better than traditional juvenile justice measures, which are 20.7% and 41.3%, respectively.
For Mike Hunt of Sons of the American Legion, supporting the program was as much a personal decision as it was based on any data points.
“One of my officers Mark Warrant, and his daughter were at the Chase Home years ago, and he was very happy with it,” he said. “His son was in it, too, and they spoke very highly of Chase Home. We have also heard a lot about the program and how good it is. We support it, because it does good things for the kids in the area.”
Expressing gratitude at Sons of the American Legion’s support, Wheeler said SCDP is one of more than a dozen accredited juvenile court diversion programs in NH, which annually serve 700 youth arrested for a first-time offense. She said SCDP is unique, however, in that also seeks to address the needs of youth in crisis before they have been arrested.
“Before a youth is arrested, he or she presents many risk factors, which is why we work with schools and other agencies to identify them as early as possible,” she said. “It is less expensive to address these issues before they escalate into situations that involve the authorities.”
Founded in 1877, The Chase Home serves more than 140 at-risk youth annually statewide through prevention, early intervention, residential and community-based programs. Some youth are served in the community while others live at Chase Home.