An evidence-based family counseling program aimed at keeping tough juveniles with their families and out of foster care, group homes or the juvenile justice system is coming to Trumbull and Mahoning counties.
The program, MultiSystemic Therapy, or MST, targets youths age 12 to 17 who are chronic and violent juvenile offenders and have a history of arrests.
MST focuses on addressing all environmental systems that impact the juveniles, including their homes and families, schools and teachers, neighborhoods and peers, said Matt Kresic, chief executive officer of Homes For Kids/Child and Family Solutions in Niles.
Homes for Kids/Child and Family Solutions, which recently opened a satellite office in Boardman, where the MST program is based, is the agency charged with implementing the session slated to get underway March 17.
Jessica O’Dea, MST clinical supervisor, and four therapists will undergo a week of training the week of March 10, and be open for business March 17. They will be on call 24/7 if families need their help, she said.
The three- to five-month program begins with four to six weeks of intensive family-based therapy aimed at teaching parents the skills to keep their child at home, said O’Dea, who was a social worker at Meridian Community Services for several years before coming to Homes for Kids on Aug. 1, 2013.
O’Dea said referrals to the MST program will primarily come from Mahoning and Trumbull juvenile justice centers.
Implementation of MST is a collaborative project funded by a $200,000 grant over 18 months from the Ohio Department of Youth Services.
“I’m very excited about this program. Anytime we have a chance to bring a program to Trumbull and Mahoning counties that is proven to work is positive,” said Lauren Thorpe, director of recovery and youth programs for the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board.
Thorpe said MST would have been here sooner but for a lack of money. The grant support was key to finally getting it started, she said.
Kresic said at a recent workshop on MST for social workers and partners in the program that he had been working for a long time on bringing MST to the Mahoning Valley, but was always “shot down” because of lack of funding.
He said he believes several entities coming together to regionalize the program was the key in getting the grant that is allowing the project to happen.
The workshop was presented by Renne Dragomir of the Center for Innovative Practices at the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Dragomir will provide assistance to the local MST when needed.
She said the children services agencies and juvenile justice centers in Mahoning and Trumbull counties and schools’ interaction are crucial to the success of MST.
Also, Dragomir said, the most-powerful predictor of delinquent behavior, including substance abuse, are peers.
Besides Homes for Kids as the lead agency, partners in the collaboration are the juvenile courts in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, Mahoning County Mental Health Board, Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, and the Mahoning and Trumbull counties’ Family and Children First Councils.