AMHF Research

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As readers of this blog and followers of the AMHF Web site know, in August 2012 the foundation embarked on a two-year study of at-risk youth, in partnership with Astor Services for Children & Families of Rhinebeck and the Bronx, New York. Herewith a report, from Dr. Suzanne Button of Astor, on hopes for this project and progress to date.

An intervention-and-outcomes-evaluation project is in progress that aims to provide early intervention for children and adolescents at risk for psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia. The project explores the risk factors identified in the research (genetic risk, thought content or paranoia, rapid recent deterioration in functioning, social impairment, or substance use) and simultaneously provide a more comprehensive evaluation service for youth with serious mental-health concerns. Furthermore, project staff will provide consultation in the form of technical assistance to support the use of evidence-based interventions and conduct outcomes evaluation regarding the effectiveness of the enhanced services received by the youth and their families.

At this time (January 2013), research and program staff have collaborated to develop a screening procedure and begun to identify youth experiencing psychosis or with heightened risk for psychosis that are currently receiving care in our programs. In the coming months, we will meet with identified youth and their caregivers, review medical records, while using evidence-based assessment protocols to gather extensive information on presenting symptoms and functioning. We will provide a menu of possible interventions based on diagnostic findings, symptoms, functioning, and the child and family strengths and needs identified in the evaluation. Also, technical assistance to implement interventions and resource/referral information will be made available as needed.

The interventions, based on research around the prevention or reduction of psychosis, will include social skills training for youth, psychoeducation for families, and referrals for appropriate medical evaluations and care coordination services. Best practices will be determined in a collaborative effort between service providers, youth, and families.

We will evaluate outcomes by contacting youth, families, and their service providers approximately every six weeks following the evaluation and consultation for a period of one year. Collecting follow-up data regarding youth functioning in social interactions, at school, and at home will serve to identify continuing treatment needs.

If necessary, families will receive referrals for further evaluation and treatment at Astor and information about local health-care providers and community resources. At the conclusion of the project, we will perform data analyses and disseminate the findings to the public via this Web site, the Astor site, and other print/media venues (American Mental Health Foundation Books), in addition to using the results to improve services for youth across the agency and behavioral health community.

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