Juvenile legal involved youth (JLIY) experience disproportionately high rates of suicidal and self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SSITB). Many JLIY lack access to evidence-based treatment specifically designed to treat SSITB, thereby increasing the overall risk of suicide. The overwhelming majority of JLIY are not placed in secure facilities and almost all incarcerated youth are eventually released to the community. Consequently, SSITB are a major concern of JLIY residing in the community and it is critical that this population has access to evidence-based treatment for SSITB. Unfortunately, most community mental health providers who treat JLIY have not been trained in evidence-based interventions that are specifically designed to SSITB, which often leads to youth experiencing prolonged periods of SSITB. Training community mental health providers who serve JLIY in the detection and treatment of SSITB shows promise for decreasing the overall suicide risk for JLIY.
The current proposal aims to reduce SSITB among JLIY, and thus reduce mental health disparities in this vulnerable and underserved youth population, by increasing access to evidence-based treatment strategies specifically designed to treat SSITB behaviors. We will implement an agency-wide training among at least 9 distinct community mental health agencies that serve JLIY referred to treatment by a statewide court system in the Northeast. Agencies will be trained in an adapted version of the COping, Problem Solving, Enhancing life, Safety, and Parenting (COPES+) intervention. Training will be implemented via a cluster-randomized stepped wedge trial that proceeds through multiple phases.
This research engages multiple systems (i.e., juvenile legal and mental health systems) serving JLIY and has the potential to directly inform treatment practices in juvenile legal and mental health systems. The current protocol has significant public health implications as the primary goals are to reduce SSITB among adolescents involved in the juvenile legal system. By implementing a training protocol with community-based providers to help them learn an evidence-based intervention, this proposal aims to reduce mental health disparities in a marginalized and underserved population.