New Alcohol and HIV Intervention Targets Former Foster Care, Homeless Teens in New York City

October 31, 2008 @ 4:00 am

For Immediate Release

October 31, 2008

New York, NY — Dr. Ronald G. Thompson, Jr., Assistant Professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW), has been awarded a $420,000 grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to implement and evaluate One Plus One, a brief intervention designed to reduce alcohol use, HIV sexual risk behaviors, and the use of alcohol during sexual activities among adolescents who become homeless after exiting foster care in New York City. 

Each year, approximately 20,000 adolescents over the age of sixteen transition from foster care to independent living in the United States – 1,000 in New York City alone. These adolescents are often poorly prepared for employment and are more likely to drop out of high school, depend on public assistance, become incarcerated, report higher rates of substance abuse and sexual activity, and experience housing instability and homelessness. 

“Although a history of living in foster care has been identified as a marker for alcohol use, sexual risk behaviors, and homelessness, minimal attention has been given to address the problems of alcohol use and HIV sexual risk faced by adolescents who exit the foster care system and become homeless,” says Dr. Thompson. “One Plus One is specifically designed to reduce alcohol use and HIV sexual risk behaviors among these adolescents through a personalized program that targets individual needs and experiences.” 

Adolescents will participate in two, one-on-one sessions aimed at understanding the context of and relationship between their alcohol use and sexual risk behaviors.  They will also receive detailed feedback and idiosyncratic skills training for risk reduction tailored to their individual risk factors, environmental context, and stage of readiness to change their behaviors.  Unlike other alcohol and HIV interventions for adolescents, One Plus One requires minimal resources, is readily transferable to other settings, and is less likely to encounter attrition problems associated with longer, multi-session interventions. 

The intervention will be implemented in collaboration with Covenant House New York, the largest provider of crisis-intervention, educational, and employment services to homeless adolescents in New York City.  Dr. Allen Zweben at CUSSW and Dr. Deborah Hasin at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health serve as co-investigators on the project.

For more information or to interview Dr. Thompson, please contact Jeannie Hii at 212-851-2327 or