PACES was awarded the only contract and funds from the state of Kansas to implement Multisystemic Therapy, an evidence-based practice to serve youth, 14 to 17, who are at risk for being juvenile offenders, and their families.
PACES is Wyandotte County’s mental health agency serving children and adolescents facing behavioral and emotional concerns, and their families.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to respond to needs of at-risk juveniles in Wyandotte County,” said Randy Callstrom, PACES executive director. “The state of Kansas has contracted with PACES as a pilot to apply this proven practice to avoid out-of-home placement for at-risk youth in our county. This is good for Wyandotte County, for PACES and especially for the juveniles and their families.”
Linda Warner, a PACES case management service coordinator since November 2007, is now supervising the team of four home-based MST therapists: Greg Fliess, Jenine Reimer, Jeremy Sanabria and Tracy Wiesehan. David Angus, PACES service manager, also has a supervisory role with the team. The team began serving youth and families in mid-September.
Referrals for the program come through Wyandotte County Court Services and Community Corrections. Participation by families is voluntary. Families are screened to determine they meet program criteria. MST focuses on identifying the top behaviors that are most likely to get youth in trouble with the law. With the teens, family and court services staff, therapists prioritize behaviors and map out “drivers” that cause the problem behaviors. They then select interventions targeted to change behaviors.
“The goal of MST is for youth and families to learn, adopt and sustain interventions that change or stop the behaviors that put the juveniles at risk,” Warner said.
Families do this through “homework,” practice, feedback and the availability of an MST therapist 24 hours, seven days a week, if needed. Warner said it’s a big commitment for families over three to five months of treatment as they develop skills to monitor and correct behaviors. Therapists are in the home and community with families three or four days a week. When a family demonstrates sustainability of interventions, the therapy regimen is completed.
After 30 years of research and 18 studies, MST repeatedly has been shown to keep kids in their homes, reducing out-of-home placements up to 50 percent; keep kids in school; keep kids out of trouble, reducing re-arrest rates up to 70 percent; improve family relations and functioning; decrease adolescent psychiatric symptoms; and decrease adolescent drug and alcohol use.
- Story from Therese Horvat, Wyandot Inc. communications director