About one in every 12 of Salt Lake County's 60,000 adolescents has severe problems with drug or alcohol abuse.

To help combat the rising incidence of substance abuse among youths 12-18, the Salt Lake County Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Services Division began a new youth treatment services program in March. Funded by a $40,000 grant (which may be renewed for up to three years), the program is designed to "build a network of treatment services to close the gaps and provide cooperation between treatment agencies, juvenile court and schools," said Dr. Roger Gisseman, youth treatment coordinator.The program, which will serve up to 104 youths, has about 30 vacancies.

Gisseman said that three agencies - the Community Counseling Center, Valley Mental Health Alcohol and Drug Unit and Odyssey House - provide a range of services from outpatient to residential, on a sliding-fee scale.

To be served, a youth must be a resident of Salt Lake County who is suspected of substance abuse. Those at risk include youths who have "problems with family relationships, in school or vocational settings, with delinquency and juvenile court, with their peers, or show signs of substance-related health, emotional or psychological disturbances," he said.

Parents should watch for signs of substance abuse, Gisseman said, since they tend to believe it couldn't happen to their kids. Signals of substance abuse include a change in behavior and activities the youth enjoys, depression, difficulty in school, delinquency and being part of a "disrupted family."

From 1970-1983, juvenile court referrals in Salt Lake more than doubled - from 12,743 to 27,521. Experts said drug and alcohol abuse was the major reason for the increase. And in a statewide survey of high schools seniors in 1984, more than 50 percent of the students said they had experimented with alcohol. More than 40 percent had tried cigarettes; 33 percent, marijuana, and 10 percent, cocaine. Gisseman said that, because the survey covered the whole state, urban areas like Salt Lake and Ogden probably have higher figures.

The total cost of drug and alcohol abuse in employment costs in 1983 was set at more than $300 million - $325 per person in the general population - by the Utah Division of Alcohol and Drugs.

The average residential treatment program lasts about six months, Gisseman said, and counseling usually runs from three to six months. "People, in general, seem to run out of issues to deal with in that period of time, although they may come back later. So if you have insurance, it usually pays for about that much counseling."

Although the age limit is technically 18, Gisseman said that those 19-21 can sometimes qualify for the program.

For more information call drug referral, 468-2032.