WVU partnership to develop evaluation for state child mental health services


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A West Virginia University partnership is developing a comprehensive evaluation for West Virginia children’s mental health services to ensure the best outcomes including fewer hospitalizations, shorter lengths of stay, fewer children being removed from the home and lower recidivism rates.

This is according to a WVU press release, which states the development of the evaluation will take nine months and is called “Children’s In-Home and Community-Based Services Improvement Project”. The project will yield an evaluation designed to better understand how well the services provided by the state are working to protect children and track the progress of their parents and guardians. Dr. Summer DeBastiani, the principal investigator of the study, said federal funding agencies have benchmarks set for successful programs, but sometimes those benchmarks don’t translate well to people in the field, so they need different data points to determine program success.

Dr. Summer DeBastiani

It’s not necessarily that they are hard to translate in the field, it’s more that there are different kind of benchmarks that might be more helpful to the state and our local providers rather than our federal partners. I wish I could give you the actual data points that we are collecting, but we are at the very beginning of this evaluation process and that is what we’re working on right now with all of our state and local partners. We are developing what exactly those measures are going to be and what the data sources that are going to be those measures.

Dr. Summer DeBastiani – Principle Investigator

Local partners for the project include the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), which is providing $1.18 million for the project’s funding. The DHHR is working on not only creating a new evaluation but also expanding and improving children’s mental health services in the state, DeBastiani said.

These expansions and improvements will include implementing a children’s mobile crisis response to more areas in West Virginia, creating a 24-hour crisis hotline and expanding the workforce for behavioral support services, according to the release.

One of the services the project is developing, DeBastiani said, is a real-time dashboard that will provide numbers to the state to help track the indicators that might lead to increased recidivism. The number one priority, she said, is to keep children in their homes or communities as much as possible because it’s crucial to a child’s well being.

“What I’m appreciative of is the fact that they’re expanding these services,” DeBastiani said. “And I’m really appreciative of the fact that a lot of the time evaluation is sought out after services are implemented and the state has done a really good job of identifying that we need to create an evaluation plan in conjunction with the service implementation so that we have the right data collection mechanism in place to really make these services better and to help us evaluate that. I think our state is doing a great job with that and I’m happy to be a part of this project.”

DeBastiani said the project and the expansion of the child welfare services is evidence-based, family-driven, youth-guided and that it’s going to include a broad array of community-based services that are individualized for child and family strength.

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