Past Projects

These projects are projects that have been completed within the past five years. For older projects, please go to Resources/Archived Reports.

Consumer-Centered Administrative Practices in Community-Based Mental Health Services

Principal Investigator: Stephen Kapp, MSW, PhD

Research Staff: Virginia Ramseyer Winter, PhD Candidate

The purpose of this project, funded by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and directed by Dr. Stephen Kapp, was to better understand the everyday practices of community health administrators that lead to consumer-centered services. The project employed qualitative methods to interview consumers, practitioners, and administrators. The work began in July 2013 continued through the end of June 2014.

Developmental Needs and Service Receipt Among Latino Children of Immigrants in the U.S. Child Welfare System

Principal Investigator: Michelle Johnson-Motoyama, PhD

Research Staff: Mindi Moses, GRA

The provision of services to meet children’s developmental needs can improve outcomes for children at risk for delays, and potentially limit the impact of child maltreatment when it occurs. However, little is known about the developmental needs or services provided to children of Latino immigrants in the U.S. child welfare system. Moreover, little is known about the impact of federal policy changes that sought to increase access to early intervention services among young maltreated children. This study built knowledge in these areas using data from the first and second National Surveys of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW). Findings will inform the development and dissemination of social work education and training curricula for the fields of child welfare and early child education. This project was funded by the Lois and Samuel Silberman Faculty Grant Program ($40,000) and the University of Kansas New Faculty General Research Fund ($8,000).

Webinar: Promoting Positive Child Development in Latino Children of Immigrants Involved with Child Protective Services

Additional Resources:

Resource Guide for Parents, Caregivers, Practitioners, Physicians, Interventionists, & Individuals Working with Young Latino Children in Immigrant Families (pdf)

Promoting Positive Child Development in Latino Children of Immigrants with Child Protective Services: Compendium of Promising Practices (pdf)

Enhancing Medicaid Services to Families of Children with a Serious Emotional Disturbance; Family-Directed Structural Therapy
Principal Investigator: Chris Petr, PhD

Project Manager: Tami Radohl, LSCW

Project Staff: Kim Murphy, PhD; Tara McClendon, PhD; Don McClendon, LCSW, LMFT, PsyD; Mun Ju Kang; and Aislinn Conrad-Hiebner

Project Dates: Jul 2009 - Jun 2011

In FY 2009 and 2010, the project titled, Enhancing Medicaid Case Management Services to Seriously Emotionally Disturbed Children and their Families: Utilizing the Family-Directed Structural Assessment Tool, evaluated the effectiveness of Family-Directed Structural Therapy (FDST) provided to Medicaid eligible youth and their families. This project took place at COMCARE, the Sedgwick county community mental health center (CMHC). In FY 2011, KUSSW finalized data collection, analyzed data, and completed reports to present final outcomes. Overall, the evaluation did not establish the effectiveness of the intervention with respect to the outcomes measured. However, the behavior and functioning of children in both groups did improve to a statistically significant degree highlighting the efficacy of COMCARE case management services.

Impact of Youth Mental Health First Aid

Principal Investigator: Amy Mendenhall, PhD

This research was funded by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and extended from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. Mental health disorders are widely prevalent and frequently lead to deleterious outcomes for Kansas children and adolescents, yet many children with mental health disorders remain undiagnosed and without needed services. The purpose of the Youth Mental Health First Aid research project was to improve the capabilities of Kansas communities to identify and refer to treatment children who may be experiencing mental health disorders. This comprehensive investigation included several components. Separate focus groups with both community mental health center (CMHC) and school staff were conducted to assess mental health literacy and professional collaboration as it relates to the current strengths, needs, and barriers in identifying and providing community mental health care to children in need of services. The primary themes resulting from the focus groups indicated that concerns regarding youth mental health are common in school settings. Significant variance exists across Kansas regarding the educational environment and type of collaboration that occurs between school and CHMC professionals. School leaders are central in determining how student mental health concerns are managed. Effective communication, personal relationships, and a team approach are essential components of effective collaboration. Many school staff report a lack of optimal mental health literacy and inadequate training regarding children's mental health. Busy schedules, large classrooms, and the need for additional mental health professionals in schools sometimes act as barriers to addressing children's mental health needs. Mental health stigma still exists in many school settings and also acts as a barrier to intervention with youth in need of mental health services. In spite of the challenges, schools across the state, often in conjunction with local CMHCs, are providing a variety of creative programming to support student mental health. The second main activity of this research was to provide mental health literacy training—Youth Mental Health First Aid—to community professionals, such as school staff, and evaluate training outcomes. Findings from the pre- and post-course surveys did not reveal significant changes in participants' knowledge or confidence level. However, both in the survey and interviews, YMHFA participants described their experience as helpful and would recommend YMHFA to others in their communities.

Inpatient Psychiatric Care for Children and Youth: Precipitants and Predictors of Admissions and Re-admissions

Principal Investigators: Becci Akin, Stephanie Bryson, and Terry Moore

This project was funded by the Kansas Department for Social and Rehabilitation Services, Division of Mental Health for the time period of July 1st 2009 to June 30th 2010.  This study was undertaken at the request of state mental health administrators in an effort to support improvements in mental health services policy and programming to children. Researchers investigated the demographic, clinical, and service characteristics associated with admission and readmission to psychiatric hospitals among children and adolescents in the state of Kansas. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to identify the pathways to and predictors of child psychiatric hospitalizations and re-hospitalizations. Recommendations discussed strategies to avert hospitalization and re-hospitalization.

Integrated Care

Principal Investigators: Michelle Levy, AM; Cheryl Holmes, MPA

The purpose of this project was to facilitate integration between Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) and Mental Health (MH) systems through exploring how communication, services, and policies work across systems to serve these children/youth. This study was funded through a partnership with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services that began in 2014 and ended June 30, 2015.

Juvenile Justice and Mental Health Service System Collaboration

Principal Investigator:  Stephen A. Kapp, MSW, PhD

Project Manager:  Mary Lee Robbins, MA, MSW, LSCSW

KUSSW completed a five-year study (FY 2004 to FY 2009) for the Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services, Division of Health Care Policy (now the Department of Aging and Disabilities). This study addressed the ever-growing population of youth in Kansas with mental health needs who are court involved by exploring the delivery of services to them and levels of cross-system collaboration on their behalf between the public mental health and juvenile justice systems. This was a three-phase study that paid particular attention to youth and family experiences and points of view regarding dual service system collaboration.  The first study phase focused on the program level at five Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC) in Kansas. Researchers described the “front door” to the juvenile justice system, including juvenile intake and assessment processes and community corrections. The second study phase used a four-perspective interview process to broaden our understanding of experiences of youth clients and their families and their mental health and juvenile justice professionals. Study findings illustrated that degrees of collaboration between the two systems existed and differed by location, judicial district, and formal and informal policies, practices and culture. Relationships between high and low levels of collaboration and positive and negative outcomes are defined, as well as other findings. Most importantly, findings indicated there is a strong need to bridge the gap between the two systems with formal and informal policies, procedures and programs at all levels. The third study phase identified and implemented key strategies for improving and formalizing collaboration through pilot grants to two CMHCs. They successfully planned and implemented policy and program innovations based on their local knowledge of needs from both systems that greatly improved collaborative efforts.

Prescribing Patterns of Psychotropic Drugs Among Child Medicaid Beneficiaries in the State of Kansas

Principal Investigators: Becci Akin, Stephanie Bryson, and Terry Moore

This project was funded from July 1st 2008 to June 30th 2009 by the Kansas Department for Social and Rehabilitation Services, Division of Mental Health. This study described psychotropic prescription patterns among the child Medicaid population in Kansas. Researchers determined annual prevalence rates, polypharmacy rates, and significant correlates of psychotropic medication prescriptions in a statewide sample of child Medicaid beneficiaries aged 0-17. Of 210,278 Medicaid enrolled youths, 18,820 had at least one paid claim for a psychotropic medication, yielding an annual prevalence rate of 9.0%. Most commonly prescribe drug classes, in rank order, were stimulants, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. Findings that demanded further inquiry included a high and growing prevalence of antipsychotic use, even among very young children; the presence of significant intraclass and interclass polypharmacy; high prevalence in the foster care population; and prescription patterns of non-mental health specialists, particularly among young children. The authors made three primary recommendations: 1) establish practice guidelines and protocols for prescribing psychotropic meds to children and adolescents; 2) disseminate evidence-based information; and 3) develop strategies for monitoring psychotropic meds to children and adolescents with a special focus on young children and children in foster care.

Professional Resource Family Care

Principal Investigator: Michelle Levy, AM

Research Staff: Cheryl Homes, MPA (Project Consultant); Ashley Palmer, MSW (GRA)

The purpose of this project was to conduct a comprehensive review of Professional Resource Family Care (PRFC), an HCBS/SED Waiver service that supports a child’s short-term stay in a specially trained, licensed family foster home that provides co-parenting with the child’s parent or legal guardian. This study examined what PRFC was, how it was being used, and if it appeared to be a promising community-based alternative to more restrictive treatment settings. This study was funded through a partnership with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services that began in September 2013 and ended in July 2014.

Comprehensive Review of Professional Resource Family Care (pdf)

Shared Decision Making for Adolescents Using Psychotropic Medications

Principle Investigator: Megan O’Brien, PhD, MPH

Research Staff: Michael Rosen, MS; Kyle Chapman, MA

This project was designed to facilitate engagement of youths in their medication treatment plans through improving medication literacy and enhancing attitudes toward medication and beliefs about decision self-efficacy. It was hypothesized that changes in these areas would empower youths to more fully engage with their medication provider and enhance self-advocacy behaviors. We tested the utility of a brief intervention to improve youths' understanding and knowledge of three critical treatment domains: identification of current medications, dose, and purpose. It was hypothesized that youths, via education and opportunity to voice their own needs and concerns with a medical provider, would gain an increased understanding of how to proactively help him/herself, engage in preventative shared health care decision making with their community providers, prevent and/or reduce further hospitalization/ long-term placement, and empower to utilize natural local supports as needed. This research was funded by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Division of Behavioral Health Services, and occurred from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2014.

TLC Teen and Mindful TLC

Principal Investigators: Steve Ilardi, PhD; Cheryl Holmes, MPA

Research Staff: Rick Ingram, PhD; Valerie Scheller, GRA; Christina Williams, GRA

This study began in July 2012 and was funded through a partnership with the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability services. The project ended July 2014. The purpose of this study was to modify two adult promising practices and test them in order to create complementary modules for teens who have or are at risk of experiencing depression. The first module, called TLC Teen, integrated six components, each of which had research showing positive benefits related to depression: nutrition including omega-3, physical exercise, light exposure, enhanced social connections, habits of healthy sleep, and engaging activities to stop ruminating thought processes. The second module, called Mindful TLC, used elements of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to provide strategies to help with depression. Team members included Dr. Steve Ilardi, Dr. Rick Ingram, Cheryl Holmes, Valerie Scheller, and Christina Williams.

Youth Success

Principal Investigators:  Stephanie Bryson, PhD, MSW; Megan O’Brien, PhD, MPH; Ronna Chamberlain

Project Partners: USD 500; PACES, Inc.; Mattie Rhodes Center; University of Kansas School of Medicine

The goal of Youth Success was to remove access barriers to mental health services among students from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods such as those in Wyandotte County, KS. The project operated from 2007 to 2012, with financial support from the KU School of Social Welfare, the REACH Foundation and the Healthcare Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

Youth Success was an innovative, school-based mental health initiative focused on closing the gap between service need and access by utilizing an individualized “robust referral” process and a primary prevention approach to school-wide, trauma-informed education. Together, the staff and social work interns brought a strong commitment to go beyond rhetoric in building capacity for true cultural competence among social work providers by: 1) enhancing culture-specific knowledge among social work interns; 2) teaching an “ethnographic” approach to intercultural interactions in which social workers remain attuned to various vectors of identity that may be more or less salient for the family/child in question; 3) identifying culturally-consonant treatment approaches in mental health treatment of populations of color; and 4) identifying successful strategies for parent outreach in high poverty communities.

The most compelling evidence of the program’s effectiveness was our ability to facilitate mental health services for the hardest-to-reach, most underserved populations. With our network of strong partners, Youth Success succeeded in breaking down barriers to the receipt of appropriate, high quality mental health services. During its five years in operation, Youth Success facilitated more than 5,213 hours of mental health care. More than 50% of referred students have been Latino/Hispanic, and nearly two-thirds had been uninsured on first contact. Youth Success also facilitated enrollment in Health Wave and Medicaid for roughly one-third of this uninsured subgroup.


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