The Screening, Assessment and Support Services (SASS) initiative is a cooperative program in Illinois developed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) to provide intensive mental health services for children and adolescents who may require psychiatric hospitalization. The development of the tri-department SASS program created a single, statewide system to serve the acute mental health needs of children whose care will require public funding from one of the three agencies. The SASS program features a single point of entry (Crisis and Referral Entry Service; CARES) for all children entering the system and ensures that children receive crisis services in the most appropriate setting. Dr. Atkins and his team have contracted with the DCFS, DHFS, and DHS to provide research and analysis of data collected by the agencies designed to evaluate the outcomes of the SASS program and to improve the clinical care of youth served by the SASS system.
The primary goal of the Center is to conduct research that promotes effective and sustainable mental health services to support the prevention, early intervention, and treatment of urban children's mental health difficulties. The Center’s specific goals are to:
1. Collaborate with key policy stakeholders to advance policy on effective practices supporting children’s learning and social and emotional development.
2. Build capacity by activating influential community members to support children and families within natural community settings.
3. Revise the role and function of mental health providers to support children and families within natural community settings
4. Focus on relevance, feasibility and sustainability in the design and implementation of prevention to intervention services
PI: Marc Atkins, PhD
This center will study models for school-based mental health services for urban low-income children and families that are guided by empirical evidence for schooling as critical for children’s social and emotional adjustment, and by evidence for the direct and indirect benefits of academic achievement for children’s mental health. A primary goal for this center is that aligning mental health resources to support children’s learning will lead to stronger mental health outcomes for children, relative to mental health services as usual. This center is consistent with recent calls for a contextually relevant understanding of children’s mental health needs and capacities, and responds to the need for accessible, effective, and sustainable mental health services in impoverished and under-served communities. The goal for this developing center grant is to inform research on the conditions that are necessary to promote the mental health of children living in poverty. The center will address gaps in knowledge related to improving access to effective services for children and families and will examine the implementation of prevention and intervention models that address risk factors for children’s mental health difficulties.