Improving Outcomes in Juvenile Drug Court
We have partnered with a local juvenile drug court (JDC) to evaluate the individual, family, and JDC system-related factors that contribute to outcomes for offenders in JDC. JDC is a docket within the juvenile court that focuses on juvenile offenders who have problems with alcohol or other drugs. JDC courts maintain close oversight of each case through frequent status hearings with youth and their families, as well as close collaboration with team members from treatment programs, the justice system, social services, schools, and law enforcement.
Our project involves evaluating youths and their families and tracking JDC-related outcomes (e.g., drug test results, new offenses, program completion). The overall goal of this project is to determine changes that could improve the rate of successful program completion for youths in JDC. One specific area of concern is how to better engage families to participate in the program and help their child be successful in JDC.
Additionally, as of summer 2018, we have contracted with the JDC to have a USM Clinical Psychology student provide psychological assessment and intervention services through a new externship position. Graduate student Paula Floyd is filling this role for the 2018-2019 year. She will be completing psychological and family functioning evaluations with referred youth, as well as providing a brief family intervention and a group-based intervention (Cannabis Youth Treatment) for the youths. She will also facilitate data collection for the ongoing research study.
The JDC study is supported in part by the Society for Community Research and Action (APA Division 27).
School-Based Prevention and Early Intervention Programs
We have partnered with a local school to provide mental health-related prevention and intervention services. The school serves a lower-SES, majority-minority district and until recently it was one of the lowest-performing schools in the state. In 2017, the school was awarded a $2.1 million grant from the MS Department of Education that allows them to extend the school day by two hours three times per week for additional educational and enrichment activities. The school has already observed improvements in student behaviors and learning, and they are eager to provide additional services for their students.
In the fall 2018 semester we will be providing brief primary prevention programs on topics that include self-esteem, bullying/conflict, emotion regulation, and goal-setting to groups of 4th through 8th graders during the school's extended day activities. Students will complete measures before and after the sessions to assess the programs' acceptability and effectiveness. In the spring 2019 semester we will be providing group interventions for youths that are referred for more intensive mental health services.
The school study is supported by an Aubrey Keith Lucas and Ella Ginn Lucas Award.
Impulsivity and Risky Behavior among At-risk Adolescents
We work with a military-style residential program that serves adolescents who have dropped out of school and are not employed. Because they have not finished high school and are also not working, these youths are at risk for developing problems with substance abuse, delinquency, and other negative outcomes. Many of them have already engaged in some of these behaviors. Our initial work with this program focused on learning about risky behaviors among these youths and relating these behaviors to characteristics like impulsivity and exposure to stressors. One of our early findings was that youths in the program report significant difficulties with emotion regulation and impulsivity, so we provided a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills training group for select groups of youths at the facility for two years. We have since discontinued the DBT program, which was supported in part by a Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology Varda Shoham Clinical Science Training Initiative grant and a Proposal Development Grant from USM's Vice President for Research, but we continue to collect self-report data from these youths and to gather information from their program files.
Associations between Stress and Risky Behavior in College Students
We are studying how exposure to stressors interacts with distress tolerance ability in the prediction of substance use and other risky behaviors in college students. Students come into the lab to complete a questionnaire, an interview, and a computer-based task. The questionnaires and computer task tell us about the students' characteristics, and the interview covers their exposure to stressful life events. Students are then invited back to the lab 6 months later for a follow-up. We are interested in learning what characteristics at time 1 are associated with risky behavior by time 2. We are also interested in cross-sectional associations between variables like impulsivity, distress tolerance, and psychological symptoms. This study will help us identify predictors and correlates of risky behaviors in college students, and might suggest appropriate interventions to prevent or reduce these problems.
Preventing Campus Sexual Assault and Substance Abuse
Our lab is part of a national multi-site randomized controlled trial of a primary prevention program to reduce sexual assault and substance abuse on college campuses. During the 2017-2018 academic year we collected questionnaire data and led groups of first year students at USM through the program. We will be following them for one year post-intervention. This study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R44 DA 039602-03).