January 28, 2005

Intervention program set to be implemented in N.C.

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photo by Mary Donaldson

Intervention program set to be implemented in N.C.

The Vanderbilt University intervention program Reaching Educators, Children and Parents (RECAP), has been selected to be used in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system in Charlotte, N.C.

Based in the Center for Psychotherapy Research and Policy (Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies), the RECAP program was created from research developed by Bahr Weiss, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychology and Human Development, and Tom Catron, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychiatry. The program is designed for students in Pre-K to fifth grade and has been proven an effective, school-based, manualized intervention for students with emotional and behavioral problems.

“Several years ago, when we first began, we wanted to address the needs of kids that we were seeing in school systems,” said Catron. “We saw that in some of the schools, as many as 30 percent of the kids had identifiable behavioral and mental health problems, but few of these kids were getting services.”

Catron and Weiss also noticed that most of the evidence-based psychotherapies for children were for single disorders only, such as treatments for depression or anxiety. Most children present with co-occurring mental health disorders. Weiss researched the most effective treatments for different types of disorders, then spent a year putting them together into a single intervention program – what is now RECAP.

During a year of pilot testing, Weiss and Catron received a lot of input from teachers, parents and kids to improve the presentation, language and materials of the intervention. The researchers then obtained a five-year National Institutes of Mental Health grant to conduct a random clinical trial, allowing them to carry out a study in Metro schools which proved to be very successful. This study proved that children who received the RECAP intervention got better and stayed better longer compared to no treatment.

The original RECAP was administered by master's level mental health clinicians; however, the program has recently evolved into training teachers to administer the intervention.

“There are simply not enough mental health resources to address all of the needs in a school system. We thought that if we could teach teachers to do it, it could become a prevention program as well as a cost-effective intervention program,” said Catron.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CMS) school system asked if they could have RECAP implemented in their entire Pre-K program, serving about 3,000 students. Weiss, Catron and Susan Han, Ph.D., research assistant professor in Psychology and Human Development, pulled together a training program for 300 teachers; making a training model and designating RECAP-trained psychologists and social workers, who would serve as consultants, to train and supervise the teachers. There are about three intervention sessions per week, about 60 a year, and each takes about 15 minutes. The researchers are also taking this opportunity to collect some additional data regarding implementation and effectiveness.

Overall, RECAP's aim is to provide an effective intervention program for children in the Pre-K and elementary setting. “[RECAP] teaches social skills, helps kids understand their feelings and helps them problem-solve with interpersonal kinds of things,” said Catron.

Catron, who is also the director of Vanderbilt's Community Mental Health Center, uses RECAP in his 15 TennCare funded school-based mental health clinics. Weiss and Catron just received another five-year NIMH award to evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher-led RECAP intervention and to determine which components of the program are most effective. “School systems from across the country are showing interest in RECAP because of the combined benefit of improving children's behavior and increasing classroom instruction time. “Teachers who use RECAP quickly realize that they spend more time teaching and less time dealing with problematic behavior,” said Catron.