The United States Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) recently awarded CASES one of five Field-Initiated Project grants made through a competitive, national application process. With the support of this grant, CASES will work with researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to design, implement, and evaluate an innovative new mobile outreach and peer engagement model. This model—Assertive Youth Engagement (AYE)—will focus on improving the engagement and retention of justice-involved minority male youth with mental health needs in outpatient treatment at CASES’ Nathaniel Clinic. This youth subpopulation—one of the clinic’s largest—experiences a high level of need while facing considerable challenges to engaging in treatment.
Working with Dr. Maureen Allwood, an Associate Professor of Psychology at John Jay, along with researchers from the college’s From Punishment to Public Health (P2PH) initiative, CASES will develop an AYE service manual that adapts established practices currently used by CASES including:
- Assertive Community Treatment: evidence-based mobile team treatment delivered in community settings for adults with serious mental illness
- Adolescent Portable Therapy: short-term, flexible therapy delivered in the home with a focus on engaging and strengthening the family of justice-involved youth who have behavioral health treatment needs
- Peer Services: empowerment, mentoring, and psychoeducation services delivered by individuals who have successfully navigated their own behavioral health challenges and completed peer services training
Through an initial pilot, CASES’ Nathaniel Clinic staff will engage at least 50 justice-involved minority male youth with mental health treatment needs in AYE services. The evaluation of the pilot with our partners at John Jay will contribute to a growing body of scholarship about the provision of behavioral health services to justice-involved minority male youth. As one of the first attempts to create an effective manualized engagement model for this target population, AYE has the potential to influence the outreach practices of other community-based treatment providers that work with justice-involved young people. Many AYE participants are likely to be co-enrolled in CASES’ primary youth felony alternative-to-incarceration program, the Court Employment Project, which includes a significant subset of participants with mental health needs. The AYE pilot thus also has the potential to highlight the critical role that community-based clinical services can play in supporting the safe and productive diversion of young people with even serious mental health needs.