As an essential community health provider in Broward County, Fla., Memorial Healthcare System saw a need for preventive public health programs targeted to adolescents – an age at which several serious public health concerns peak or start. Memorial developed Community Youth Services (CYS), which offers a wide variety of programs to at-risk youth at 22 different sites. Since CYS began in 1999, the program has helped nearly 150,000 young people and their families. In addition to improving hundreds of lives, the program is keeping many potential victims out of Memorial’s emergency department.
When children reach adolescence, they begin to face new issues including motor-vehicle crashes, substance use and abuse, smoking, sexually transmitted infections, and unplanned teen pregnancies. To discover which communities and neighborhoods are at high risk for these problems, CYS utilizes data from population health surveys such as recent teen pregnancy rates per zip code, substance abuse rates from current school-risk surveys, and Department of Juvenile Justice data of zip codes with the highest delinquency rates. CYS also holds meetings with key stakeholders, faith-based organizations, community leaders, and others to identify high-risk communities and develop real, targeted solutions. Staff work collaboratively with community groups such as the Broward Infant Services Task Force, Special Needs Network, and the Broward County Public Schools Social Services Committee to effectively coordinate care delivery, share best practices, and develop a resource catalog of additional needs for families. The following are a few of the numerous programs offered:
- Family TIES (Therapeutic Intervention to Empower and Strengthen) provides in-home counseling on substance abuse.
- Future PREP (Addressing the Transition to Independent Living) helps foster children transition to healthy young adulthood.
- Guiding Good Choices assists parents of children ages 6 to 14 in keeping their families free of drug and alcohol abuse.
- Healthy Families offers home visitations to prevent child abuse and neglect.
- Healthy Start offers primary care and childbirth education to pregnant teens.
- MOMS (Mothers Overcoming Maternal Stress) serves young women suffering from or at risk of postpartum depression.
- New DAY (Diversion Alternatives for Youth) prevents and intervenes in substance abuse at school.
- Project PAUSE provides a school- and community-based universal pregnancy prevention program.
CYS uses a targeted approach to tailor each program to the needs of the individual school, community, or group it serves. Programs are characterized as universal prevention, targeted prevention services, early intervention, and treatment, and many programs offer follow up to ensure positive changes stick after the program has ended. “Most of the CYS services are collaborative partnerships with other community-based organizations that work to strengthen families and communities…by addressing issues compromising their health long before they walk through Memorial’s hospital doors suffering from abuse, neglect, addiction, or disease,” explains Tim Curtin, director of CYS. The goals and outcomes achieved by the CYS program are a direct result of the evidence-based prevention, early intervention, and treatment models developed by program staff. The best practices are designed to decrease high-risk behaviors, strengthen healthy behaviors, and promote family stability using the following approaches:
- varied teaching methods
- sufficient dosage
- theory and data-driven programs
- positive relationships with participants, community leaders and neighborhoods
- appropriately timed services
- sociocultural competence
- outcome evaluation
- well-trained staff
Through these avenues, CYS programs seek to delay early signs of problematic behavior, reduce crises, and change existing behavior. As such, they serve to reduce juvenile crime, treat substance abuse, encourage education, stabilize and resolve negative consequences of recurring disorders, and help prevent abuse, among other outcomes. “CYS seeks to accomplish those objectives while pointing at-risk young people down the road to success in life,” Curtin says. “We meet goals through evidence-based curriculum, in-home counseling, wraparound case management, targeted care coordination, family retreats, and effective linkage to outside programs, services, and resources as necessary.” And the results are overwhelmingly positive.
For example, CYS has helped more than 14,000 families in 2012 alone. Of youth who participated in the New DAY program, 96.4 percent had no law violations for the following 18 months, and 89 percent improved their overall school performance. MOMS helped 90 percent of participants decrease stress, with 79 percent reporting fewer symptoms of depression, and 100 percent of families showing improvements in family functioning through better parenting skills, fewer conflicts and other measures. In the past year, 96.2 percent of families in the Family TIES program participated in all program requirements, with 95.3 percent reporting an improvement in family functioning, and 99.9962 percent yielding no verified abuse findings six months after completing the program.
For more information on Memorial Healthcare System’s Community Youth Services program, please contact:
Director of Community Youth Services
Memorial Healthcare System