Human Services

Second Chance


Second Chance is Arlington's new early intervention and education program for getting youth back on track for a healthy and productive life.

Program At A Glance
Sample Curriculum

Youth are putting their futures at risk.

Before they graduate from high school, 76% of Arlington teens will have tried alcohol at one time or another. Almost half will have used marijuana. These alarming facts come from the 2010 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families.

Use of prohibited substances is a problem because teens who drink or use drugs are much more likely to have slipping or failing grades, unplanned and unprotected sex, accidents resulting in serious injury, and other high risk behaviors. The earlier teens start, the more likely they will experience addiction problems later in life. And a teen’s developing brain is highly vulnerable to the disruptive effects of alcohol and drugs -- which can result in lifelong problems with important cognitive skills like attention, learning and memory.

Intervention and education are the key.

Traditional punishment sends the behavior underground. Suspensions and court involvement leave well-meaning friends, coaches, teachers and parents without a positive  alternative for helping students they worry about.  The long-term consequences of many traditional forms of punishment keep some from finding interventions that can help.

Second Chance will divert youth who complete the program from school suspension and the juvenile-justice system and, ultimately, change behaviors of
Arlington youth engaged in substance use.

 Adolescent Substance Use: 
America's #1 Public Health Problem

Read the CASA report that declares teen smoking, drinking, misusing prescription drugs and using illegal drugs a public health problem of epidemic proportion and the primary origin of the complex brain disease of addiction. 

Three-day program and booster session include mandatory parental involvement.

Second Chance is a free, three-day early intervention program. Educational components help students review their behavior, their relationships, and their knowledge to look for the links that led them to use prohibited substances. A “booster session” is held 60 days after the initial session.

Teens have an opportunity to look at healthier choices that give them a Second Chance to avoid school suspensions or involvement in the juvenile-justice system. The program includes a mandatory component for parents that helps improve communication and teaches what to watch for to help their kids avoid risky choices.

  • Starting in September, middle and high school students can be referred to the program by schools, police, the courts and parents
  • To be eligible for the diversion part of the program (avoiding criminal prosecution and school suspension) it must be a student's first offense and involve alcohol or marijuana.
  • For a second offense or a drug other than marijuana, students are not eligible for diversion but they may be eligible to attend to benefit from the educational program.

A Community-Wide Effort

Second Chance is the result of widespread community support spearheaded by Partnerships for a Healthier Arlington. Program developers conducted focus groups, met with other jurisdictions, and engaged students, counselors, teachers and school officials, the judicial system, public health and public safety officials, the Commonwealth’s Attorney and, most importantly, parents.

A Model for Other Communities

Many communities have tried to tackle this problem. The unique characteristics of this program make it the only one of its kind in the nation. The pilot phase of the program will include data collection and an evaluation that could result in Second Chance becoming a model for other communities seeking to address prohibited substance use among youth.

Funding Sources

  • The Arlington County Board appropriated $130,000 for this two-year pilot program (FY 2012-13).
  • The Century Council contributed $50,000. The Century Council, a national, independent, not-for-profit organization headquartered in Arlington and funded by distillers, is a leader in the fight against drunk driving and underage drinking and promotes responsible decision making regarding beverage alcohol.
  • Arlington’s READY Coalition contributed $20,000 for the evaluation component of the program.

Second Chance Partners

"Second Chance reflects a 
shared community value about the 
importance of intervening early 
to stop teen alcohol and drug use."

Mary Hynes
Arlington County Board

"Alcohol and drug use is not 
a rite of passage for young people -- 
it is harmful and we can 
work together to prevent it."

Abby Raphael
Arlington School Board


Second Chance Administrative Office
(Operated by Phoenix Houses of the Mid-Atlantic)
521 N Quincy St.
Arlington, VA 22203

George Knoerlein 
703-841-0703 extension 3005

Sarah Gortenburg 
703-841-0703 extension 3042

Last Modified: November 01, 2013
2100 Clarendon Blvd. Arlington, VA 22201 Tel: 703-228-3000 TTY: 703-228-4611