Sedgrid Lewis: A Different Approach to Gang Prevention

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With gang intervention on the rise, former gang member and Vietnam veteran, Louie is helping the gang influenced youth in Clayton County, GA.  Louie, now a therapist practicing Multisystemic Therapy (MST), first met Patricia when she was a young gang member in Clayton County.  Patricia, like many youth, had been gang affiliated at an early age and was yet another statistic in the county having the largest gang growth rate in Metro Atlanta. The Clayton County Police Gang Intelligence unit estimates there are 1,200 gang members and 47 criminal street gangs in the county. The gang members range in age from 13 to 22. Patricia unfortunately fit into this segment of the population and began leading a life of crime and a gang influenced lifestyle.

Despite her gang involvement the Clayton County Juvenile Court placed Patricia in the Multisystemic Therapy Program (MST) funded by the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. Louie began implementing MST interventions for Patricia and her family. Patricia’s mom worked with Louie and used different techniques, behavior plans, safety plans, friends approval lists, etc. to decrease Patricia’s gang involvement. At the end of the school year, it was imperative to remove Patricia from the gang environment in Clayton County. Louie was able to safely relocate Patricia with a relative in another state for the summer.

Patricia’s mom knows the techniques she learned from MST were helpful in turning her daughter around. “When Patricia returned home, I utilized the interventions that I learned from Louie to keep Patricia away from negative peers and her gang members” states Patricia mom.  Upon returning back home, Patricia put her new skills to work and now has a part time job in the community, will be graduating from high school and looks forward to attending nursing school.

MST therapy is different from traditional counseling. The therapists follow nine treatment principles to design interventions aimed at empowering parents with the skills and resources needed to address the challenges of raising a teenager. Currently, MST is being provided by the Department of Juvenile Justice serving the Greater Atlanta area.

Judge William Schneider, Rockdale Juvenile Court, sees the benefit to MST for his court room and states, “As an alternative to incarcerating youths, the Juvenile Court of Rockdale County relies on Multisystemic Therapy (MST) to aid families struggling with delinquent and anti-social behavior in adolescents. Specifically, the court system looks to MST to help parents create and maintain rules, boundaries and tasks within the home that will lead to higher functioning for each family member. MST has been very successful and the slots provided for MST cases are valued. The Juvenile Court system continues to see that there is a palpable need for more MST services then have been provided by the state to date.”

Patricia is just one of the many success stories for MST, Louie and other MST therapists employed by Community Solutions, Inc. Community Solutions has a team of MST therapists with over 9 years of experience servicing delinquent youth referred by Juvenile Courts in the Metro Atlanta Area. Founded in 1962, CSI is a licensed provider of Multisystemic Therapy, an evidence-based program, providing youth and families home-based services that break the cycle of criminal behavior by keeping teens at home and in school. CSI implements the MST model as an alternative to out-of-home placement and has made a commitment to do “Whatever It Takes”. Through the increased supervision and treatment provided by MST therapists, boundaries and consequences for inappropriate behavior are established and are enforced by their parents. Youth are held accountable for their actions and ultimately helped to remain crime free and out of the juvenile justice system. 85 % of the youth referred to CSI’s MST complete the program without incurring new delinquent charges. A higher percentage of those same youth do not return to criminal habits 12 months after completion of the MST program.

With the help of her therapist, Louie, Patricia now has the tools to succeed in her community and has a gang-free, successful lifestyle in her future.


For more information about the Multisystemic Therapy offered by Community Solutions, Inc. contact Sedgrid D. Lewis, MST Program Director, (770) 457-6969.


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