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DHS Research and Reports - Behavioral Health and Disabilities

pdf.gif Data Brief: Behavioral Health Services In The Allegheny County Jail
Published, March 2014
The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative strives to improve public safety and reduce recidivism through a variety of programs and services offered to inmates while incarcerated and during re-entry into the community.  One of the primary challenges to successful re-entry is the high rate of behavioral health issues (substance abuse and mental health disorders) among the jail population. Left untreated, these issues make it far more difficult for an individual to find and hold a job, maintain a home and create the supportive community relationships that help to prevent recidivism. As a first step toward improving outcomes for this population, the Collaborative convened a workgroup to review the behavioral health services available, to identify gaps and challenges within the system, and to recommend possible improvements. This brief summarizes the workgroup’s findings.

pdf.gif Psychotropic Medication Use by Allegheny County Youth in Out-of-Home-Placement
Community Care Behavioral Health and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, October 2013 

The use of psychotropic medication to treat youth in out-of-home placement has received a great deal of attention, both locally and nationally.  In this report, prepared jointly by Community Care Behavioral Health (CCBH) and the Department of Human Services, information is provided about two separate but complementary activities designed to analyze local trends and inform next steps: 1) a series of focus groups held with youth and caregivers to discuss the issues related to psychotropic medication use and 2) quantitative research conducted by CCBH, comparing psychotropic medication use by Medicaid-enrolled youth residing in out-of-home placements (in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems) with that of their peers living at home. 

pdf.gif 2011 Allegheny County DHS Local Government Case Competition: Reducing Stigma among Individuals with Serious Mental Illness
Shannon Fairchild and Katie Meehan Arvay
Published July 2012.
For the fifth annual Local Government Case Competition, participants were asked to address the stigma associated with mental illness and to develop a plan to improve the experiences of individuals living with serious mental illness. Forty-three graduate students from three local universities and six fields of study were divided into eleven teams. Each team presented its ideas to a panel of judges (18 individuals on four panels) representing com-munity organizations, local universities, DHS staff members and winners from previous years; four teams were ultimately chosen as winners based on verbal presentation, content and scope. This report summarizes the winning presentations as well as the key ideas generated during the competition.

pdf.gif HOPE: Helping Others Through the Power of Education: A Report on a Series of Events Held in the Spring of 2011
Prepared by Robin Orlando, Jeanine Rasky and Evelyn Whitehill
Published June 2012.

Throughout May and June of 2011, three events were held that brought together youth and families from a number of DHS children and youth-serving systems (e.g., behavioral health, intellectual disabilities, child welfare), the Allegheny County Health Department and the Juvenile Justice system, to engage them in empowering activities designed to: 1) provide a better understanding of the resources available to them; 2) increase their skills to utilize these resources; and 3) expand their ability to connect with their peers and build community networks of support. These three events, collectively known as HOPE (Helping Others through the Power of Education), were: 1) Spin the Wheel to Wellness Workshop; 2) Strong Communities Celebration and Resource Fair; and 3) Youth Empowerment Conference. A description and evaluation of each are included in this narrative report.

pdf.gif Allegheny County LINK: A Summary of Data and Consumer Feedback
Brian Bell, Charles Odah, Evelyn Whitehill and Erin Dalton
Published May 2012.

The Allegheny County LINK (LINK) was founded in 2006 and designed to simplify and streamline access to long-term living services and supports and provide assistance to consumers who are seeking services and making long-term living decisions. A review of data and a consumer survey indicated that LINK’s services are valued and increasing in demand and that the majority of calls relate to housing and home accessibility issues. Details of this analysis as well as recommendations for service expansion can be found in this report.

pdf.gif Evaluation of Allegheny County’s Crisis Intervention Team Training Program
Beth A. D. Nolan, Alexis Blandford, and Danielle Kirin
Published 2012.
Between 2007 and 2009, 95 officers from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and other municipalities received crisis intervention training designed to teach them how to identify and intervene with individuals with mental illness at an earlier stage, in order to avoid escalation of the behavior, prevent possible injury and reduce the possibility of subsequent arrest among youth and adults who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis. This program was a component of a broad-based strategy implemented to decriminalize individuals with mental illness who may encounter the criminal justice system and to seek solutions through diversion programs. This report summarizes the process of development and implementation of the training program, describes the community interventions in place to support the officers, and examines course ratings and evaluation feedback from participants.

pdf.gif An Analysis of Allegheny County Mental Health Court
Kimberley C Falk and Stephanie Moravec
Data gathered in 2008. Published 2011.
The Allegheny County Mental Health Court (MHC) was established in 2001 to address the needs of people with mental illness and/or substance use disorders in judicial proceedings. Blended resources and funding, as well as collaboration among the Court of Common Pleas, District Attorney, Department of Human Services (DHS) and Adult Probation, enable the court to ensure that mental health or substance use treatment is offered as an alternative to incarceration for MHC participants; treatment is intended to reduce the likelihood of criminal recidivism. This 2008 analysis uses summary violations and criminal convictions to compare recidivism of MHC graduates with federal reconviction rates. Ten percent of MHC graduates were convicted of criminal charges three years after completing the MHC program, a figure which compares favorably to national reconvictions of 46 percent after three years. 

pdf.gif How Case Reviews Transformed Allegheny County's Criminal Justice System
Bruce Barron
Published September 2011.
In this report, writer Bruce Barron documents the criminal justice case review process in Allegheny County which was established to deliver justice efficiently and effectively. The report provides a behind the scenes look at how cases are identified, prepared and documented for the review which includes stakeholders from law enforcement, prosecution and defense counsel, the courts, probation, human services, and corrections. The report highlights the issues and solutions proposed by the criminal justice case review team and the factors that have contributed to the team’s success.  

pdf.gif Prevention Programs Across the DHS
Megan Good, Brian Bell, Ebony Robinson and Erin Dalton
Published August 2011.
Many DHS programs and services include a prevention component, and a persistent challenge for administrators is developing a comprehensive understanding of what they all are and how well they work. This report presents a framework for prevention in the human services field, classifies and catalogs the prevention efforts across DHS, and discusses key pieces of information that are important to understanding the evaluation status and priorities of each program or service. Next steps are formulated and presented based on DHS-wide trends and specific priorities for program evaluation.

pdf.gif Starting Early Together - Assessing a System of Care Initiative
Sarah Thurston and Jessica Chambers, Published 2011
An Allegheny County federal system of care grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) closes in September 2011. In preparation for this closure, the operating program, known as Starting Early Together (SET), was charged with identifying the most essential elements of the early childhood mental health service coordination and family support services that it offered with the goal of sustaining those elements through DHS and partners. This report outlines the process and findings of focus groups with families, staff and other stakeholders to outline the successes, challenges and essential elements of the SET program.