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     Youth Risk Assessment and Behavioral Health Screening Study


The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation are jointly funding the Law and Psychiatry Research Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to conduct the Risk Assessment and Behavioral Health Screening Study (RABS). RABS is studying how structured and comprehensive implementation of risk assessment, mental health screening, and substance abuse screening in juvenile probation departments in two states can impact case processing and reoffending. Both states selected the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth as their risk assessment tool, which they are implementing in conjunction with the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument-Version 2 and the CRAFFT substance use screening tool for dispositional planning.

This research builds on a series of research projects that the guidelines for successful implementation. The researchers followed up with a matched control group study in two states (Risk and Mental Health Screening and Assessment of Youth) around the application of these guidelines in juvenile probation agencies to inform decision making about youth processing. In the current project, researchers are focusing on facilitators and barriers to implementation of risk and needs assessment and behavioral health screening and the impact on dispositional and case planning. However, more importantly, this study will examine the interaction between mental health, serious substance use issues, and risk of reoffending factors on recidivism.

Goals and Objectives:

The purpose of this project was to incorporate behavioral health needs (mental health and substance abuse) into case planning in juvenile probation departments and test the subsequent effectiveness to help in the design of a more integrated model for risk and needs assessments. The research is measuring effectiveness of case planning in four juvenile probation sites in Arkansas and all juvenile probation offices in Rhode Island on the following outcomes:

  1. Reduction in mental health and substance abuse symptoms and dynamic risk factors.
  2. Reduction in reoffending.
In accordance with these objectives, the researchers will use propensity-score matching to compare pre-implementation and post-implementation samples of adjudicated youth on placement rates, probation violations, and recidivism across all probation sites for a 12-month period from the dates of adjudication. Moreover, researchers will analyze data to examine whether risk reduction is delayed or impaired for youth with mental health concerns or serious substance use issues.


The research team identified Arkansas and Rhode Island as their states of focus and have begun data collection, cleaning, and analysis. OJJDP expects to post a final technical report on the research findings and implications in 2018.

Contact Information:

Jennifer Tyson, Research Coordinator | 202-305-1598

Gina Vincent, Associate Professor | 508-856-8727
University of Massachusetts Medical School

Project Snapshot

Project Title: Youth Risk Assessment and Behavioral Health Screening Study

Solicitation: OJJDP FY 2014 Invited Applicants (jointly funded with the MacArthur Foundation)

Grantee: University of Massachusetts Medical School

Current award start date: August 1, 2014

Anticipated end date: March 31, 2018

Award status: Active

Type of research: Evaluation

Related topical page: Intake/assessment; Probation

Location of research: Arkansas and Rhode Island

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