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Posted: Sep 12, 2005 10:23

"INNOVATIVE, EVIDENCE-BASED INTERVENTIONS AT YOUTH CARE"

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Since returning to Youth Care almost five months ago, Executive Director Trina Packard has enhanced an already-flourishing program. Some of the changes at the residential treatment center in Draper, UT are obvious - opening a new home, engaging Richard Mickelson, M.D. as full-time Medical Director, and providing additional resources on campus, such as a new computer lab, soccer field and basketball courts. Packard also brings a commitment to providing interventions that meet the highest standards for being considered "Evidence Based."

Consistent with Youth Care's focus on developing research-supported interventions, the program has a new emphasis on educational and psychological testing from an evidence-based perspective. Youth Care is committed to fulfilling the National Institute of Mental Health's agenda for the application of evidence-based research in testing, assessment and treatment. To meet this important goal, Youth Care recently began working with Evidence Based Consulting (EBC), a group of psychologists with extensive experience in adolescent assessment, residential treatment, and the implementation of research-based, best practices in clinical care.

This is how the innovative partnership works: EBC provides testing services for Youth Care students by using up-to-date psychological tests, interpretive strategies, and treatment recommendations that are suggested in the research literature. In collaboration with Youth Care therapists, a strategic treatment plan is developed, utilizing research-based practices and measurements. The additional perspective of EBC psychologists provides the best possible assessments and treatment for Youth Care students.

By attending treatment team meetings and offering "as needed" consultation, EBC psychologists also function as ongoing clinical consultants to Youth Care therapists and staff. EBC psychologists are available to the Youth Care team to recommend evidence-based interventions and provide on-going training regarding students with complex clinical issues (e.g., Reactive Attachment Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Learning Disorders).

Youth Care believes that this partnership with an external team of expert psychologist-consultants places them on the "cutting edge" of service delivery and deepens their commitment to continuing clinical education.

"We feel that the best way to serve the complex and challenging needs of our students is to collaborate on new developments in the field, and to receive on-going training," Packard said. "Our therapists can provide better treatment to our students and continue developing professionally by working with other experts who constantly provide them with new, effective, and practical suggestions for care."

Psychologists at Evidence Based Consulting emphasized that the focus on early, comprehensive assessment cuts down on the lag time between enrolling a student and commencing effective interventions. Dr. Tracine Smoot, a consultant who specializes in treating Learning Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders, described the benefits of Youth Care's new system.

"Many therapists wonder about how best to address learning differences and other challenges, such as Pervasive Developmental Disorders, in a comprehensive treatment plan," said Dr. Tracine Smoot. "There are interventions that tend to be most effective, based on clinical research, but clear identification of these disorders is often lacking. Once we know a student's specific strengths and clinical needs - using the latest research and testing available to us - we can then bring together parents and referring professionals with Youth Care's teachers, therapists, and line staff to provide consistent, coordinated interventions."

Dr. Carl Smoot, a 12-year industry veteran and co-chair of the Testing Division of EBC, noted that the partnership between Youth Care and Evidence Based Consulting could serve as a model for other treatment programs.

"This is a unique opportunity to unite best practices in assessment with evidence-based treatment," said Dr. Carl Smoot. "Being on-site at Youth Care allows us to participate in the ongoing review of a student's progress and in so doing, enhances the effectiveness of the intervention."

Since instituting this new testing protocol and enhanced treatment plan just three months ago, Youth Care has received positive feedback from referring professionals, parents and other partners.

"It's still early, but already we are seeing success," said Youth Care Executive Director Trina Packard. In addition to the clinical improvements that come from utilizing evidence-based research, Packard noted, parents and professionals are receiving timely, detailed reports. "Youth Care is committed to providing our students, families, and referring partners with the best services that research can provide, and to remaining at the cutting edge of treatment."

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