Vanderbilt University’s Center for Evaluation and Program Improvement and the Indiana University Center for Adolescent and Family Studies have won a $3.8 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study methods to improve mental health services.
The five-year project will examine how to improve mental health services for youth and families in community mental health settings. The study will integrate a computer-based method of measurement and feedback about treatment developed by Leonard Bickman, CEPI director and Betts Chair and professor of psychology, psychiatry and public policy at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, with an evidence-based treatment co-developed by Tom Sexton, director of CAFS and professor of counseling and psychology in the IU School of Education.
The project will apply functional family therapy, a type of clinical treatment for youth with violent, criminal, behavioral, school and conduct problems and their families with Bickman’s “Contextualized Feedback System” or CFS. CFS is an automated, self-scoring and clinically oriented feedback system that includes measurement of treatment progress, detailed feedback, onsite training and Web-based clinical training modules.
During the project, Western Youth Services in Orange County, Calif., will use functional family therapy and continuously evaluate its effectiveness with the CFS. The feedback will come to service providers immediately so that they can adapt ongoing treatment in an evidence-based manner to better serve the needs of the youth and families in treatment.
Sexton said the project represents a potential positive change in how all mental health services are provided. “We never do what physicians do,” Sexton said. “We don’t measure our progress.” Sexton said for mental health providers, there hasn’t generally been something akin to checking a patient’s cholesterol level, for example. “Vanderbilt’s got a terrific system of psychometrically sound measures to actually measure change as it’s going on,” he said.
The Vanderbilt and Indiana researchers began to work together more than three years ago to apply functional family therapy to the computerized feedback system.