Tower Foundation Aids Teens with Addiction

Grant Makes Lahey’s Team Fourteen a Game Changer in Essex County

Youth and their families who are struggling with substance use issues — including those who are in the early stages of substance use or who are recovering after hospital-based treatment — have a critical need for the right care at the right time. With funding from the Peter & Elizabeth Tower Foundation, Team Fourteen is positioned to offer a new path to a more hopeful future when it is needed most.

Team Fourteen (named for the 14-week session model) is a group of clinicians who serve Essex County adolescents and their families. It is a pioneering project of Beth Israel Lahey Health Behavioral Services that is already having a positive community impact. The initiative offers group and individual counseling as well as training and consultations for schools and other community providers.

Team Fourteen was launched in 2016, thanks to $264,000 in seed funding from the Tower Foundation. It has been a loyal supporter of Beth Israel Lahey Health Behavioral Services, having previously collaborated with it to establish a substance-use and service-navigation program. It is dedicated to helping children, adolescents, and young people affected by intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, mental health issues, and substance use disorders — a population that can be overlooked and often stigmatized.

The foundation’s goal is “to make the greatest possible impact on young people striving to achieve their own definition of success” — a mission that aligns perfectly with the work of Team Fourteen.

“Team Fourteen is here to support youth and families at critical turning points as they struggle to address substance use,” said Lea Forster, Director of Team Fourteen. “Our focus is on reducing obstacles to treatment by offering adolescent-friendly counseling. We use the evidenced-based Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA) model; provide counseling within their homes; and focus on engaging their caregivers.”

The overall goal of the A-CRA model is to help youth reconnect with or discover new sources of positive reinforcement within their community to compete with alcohol or drug use. Team Fourteen clinicians do this by listening to their clients and learning what is important to them. They then help connect clients to pro-recovery activities that have meaning and value. Their aims include:

  • Decreasing the use of alcohol and drugs.
  • Improving communication with family and others.
  • Increasing participation in non-using social activities.
  • Increasing positive relationships with peers.

Team Fourteen has been remarkably successful on these counts, serving 171 youth in the program’s first three years and achieving high-quality outcomes. “Based on discharge data, caregiver and adolescent relationships have improved significantly, which is an important protective factor against risky behaviors,” said Lea. Additionally, the project received the 2018 Massachusetts Children’s Behavioral Health Innovation Award. Team Fourteen has earned a reputation for collaboration with community partners and has recently expanded valuable services to youth and their families in the cities of Lawrence and Haverhill.

The Tower Foundation seed money launched a sustainable project with powerful impacts on the well-being of youth and their families. “We are so grateful to the Tower Foundation for their essential support,” said Lea. “Together we are making ‘the greatest possible impact on young people striving to achieve their own definition of success.’”

To learn more about Beth Israel Lahey Health Behavioral Services’s Team Fourteen project, visit