Hospital-community partnership improves mental health care for children

Children with behaviour problems at an early age can end up having risky behaviour and being involved with the criminal justice system later in life. Early treatment can help prevent long-term problems, but it can be difficult to put effective programs in place in community settings. This is especially the case in high-risk communities.

Researchers examined whether a partnership between a hospital and a community agency would help put in place a program to reduce disruptive behaviour in young children. The program involved two training components, one to improve parenting skills, the other to improve children’s social and problem-solving skills. The program was already running successfully at the hospital before the study started. The community agency had not previously offered mental health services. As part of the study, staff at the community agency received training on how to deliver the treatment program.

To get the full story, check out EENet’s new Research Snapshot of the article, “Implementing an Evidence-Based Parent-Child Mental Health Program in a High-Risk Community,” by Fiona K. Miller and Daniel P. Keating, published in Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 32 (2013): 139-153.

Research Snapshots are brief, clear language summaries of research articles, presented in a user-friendly format.

Read it below or download the PDF.

What you need to know

Even though the community agency did not specialize in mental health care, children who took part in the program at the community agency showed levels of improvement in problem behaviours that were similar to those of children who took part in the program at the hospital.

What is this research about?

Children who show behaviour problems at an early age often end up behaving dangerously and being involved with the criminal justice system later in life. Early treatment can help reduce the risk of long-term problems, but it can be difficult to put effective child mental health programs in place in community settings. This is especially true for high-risk communities that often have fewer services, such as those where people have lower incomes or with a large number of immigrants.  
What did the researcher do?

The researchers examined whether a partnership with a hospital would help the community agency put in place a program to reduce disruptive behaviour in young children. The program involved two components: 

  • parent training to improve parenting skills, and 
  • child training to improve social and problem solving skills. 

The program was already running successfully at the hospital before the study started. The community agency had not previously delivered mental health services. As part of the study, staff at the community agency received training in how to deliver the treatment program to clients. Both organizations were located in a large Canadian city, less than one mile apart. 

What did the researcher find?

Compared to the hospital setting, families at the community agency were more likely to:

  • be immigrants, 
  • have lower levels of education, and
  • have lower incomes. 

This is important because it shows that the community agency was able to reach the kinds of families that did not to use the hospital clinic. 

The researchers also found that a similar percentage of families at both the hospital and community agency completed the program. Even though the community agency did not specialize in mental health care, children who took part in the program at the community agency showed levels of improvement in problem behaviours that were similar to those of children who took part in the program at the hospital.

All of the 21 staff members interviewed about the partnership between the hospital clinic and the community agency said they would like the partnership to continue. They felt that it provided the community with a service that was needed and allowed workers in the community agency to develop their professional skills. On the other hand, they also felt that a lack of staff time might prevent the partnership from continuing, and that the hospital and the community agency would need to improve communication for the partnership to work in the long term.

How can you use this research?

This research may be of interest to health care administrators and policymakers as they plan community mental health programs for young children. The research shows that local partnerships between traditional mental health service providers and community agencies might help make mental health care more available in non-traditional community settings.  In particular, the research suggests that these partnerships may be a way of reaching high-risk populations who might not use traditional mental health services offered in hospital settings.

About the researchers

Fiona K. Miller is with the University Center for the Child and the Family at the University of Michigan. Daniel P. Keating is with the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan. millerfk [at] umich [dot] edu.
This Research Snapshot is based on their article “Implementing an Evidence-Based Parent-Child Mental Health Program in a High-Risk Community,” which was published in the Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, vol. 32, no. 1 (2013): 139-153.

Keywords

behaviour disorder, evidence-based treatment, child mental health 

This Research Snapshot is based on an article that has been critically appraised for quality and susceptibility to bias.

EENet has partnered with the Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York University to produce Research Snapshots in the field of mental health and addictions in Ontario. This summary was written by Andrea Flynn.

 

 

 

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