MST in Pennsylvania: Proven Successful in Helping Juvenile Offenders

Posted by Elizabeth Campbell, Ph.D., EPISCenter and Lori Moore, MST Services

Sep 29, 2015 9:30:00 AM

Evidence-based interventions in Pennsylvania yield reductions in placement rates

The state of Pennsylvania has a long history of doing right by its high-risk youth. It followed the example set by Illinois in 1899 of not looking on children and adolescents as being solely responsible for their behavior. Courts would not merely mete out punishment. They would look for ways to rehabilitate the defendants.

One hundred years later, alongside a number of initiatives to improve its juvenile justice system, Pennsylvania leaders began encouraging the adoption of evidence-based interventions (EBIs) such as Multisystemic Therapy (MST) and Functional Family Therapy (FFT) as a way to help troubled youth, keep them at home and out of prison.

Based on evaluations and outcome reports by the EPISCenter, EBIs are accomplishing just that.PA_chart

Evaluation setup

To explore the relationship between implementation of home-based evidence-based treatment and decreasing placement rates, 19 counties that did not have MST or FFT available in 2006 were identified. These counties were divided into two groups—those that later began implementation of MST or FFT and those that didn’t. 

In Group A were 11 counties that began offering MST or FFT between 2007 and 2009.

Group B consisted of eight counties that did not adopt MST or FFT during the evaluation period.

As one component of the analysis, juvenile-justice placement rates from 2006 to 2012 were calculated, as were changes in the number of youth placed each year. Placement rates were looked at for each group as a whole and the groups were compared to one another, as well as to statewide trends.

As a whole, the EBI adopters showed greater reductions in delinquency placements over the period examined, both in the number of youth placed and the percent of delinquency dispositions resulting in placement. The rate of decrease for this group was also steeper than the rate of change for the state as a whole.

The numbers tell the story

In 2006, the placement rate for the two groups was comparable (10.69 percent and 10.58 percent).

By 2012, Group A saw a 39-percent decrease in the rate, down to 6.52 percent. And the decrease was steady over the years. In contrast, Group B did not show a predictable pattern of change. The small change from 2006 to 2012 represented only a 4-percent reduction in the placement rate.

While more than two-thirds of youth enrolled in MST are at immediate risk of placement, 88 percent of them remain in the community at discharge. In addition to keeping youth in their homes, MST has shown a number of benefits for Pennsylvania youth over the past three years.

Effective treatments for juvenile offenders saves money

One of those benefits is saving taxpayer money—today and in the future. EPISCenter puts the numbers at $21 to $50 million, based on reducing future crime.

Furthermore, by diverting youth from costly out-of-home placements, MST is estimated to have saved the state from $27 to $67 million over the past three years by providing less costly community-based treatment. You might say MST is saving Pennsylvania dollars while saving a lot of kids.

Elizabeth Campbell, Ph.D., is an Intervention Programs Consultant, Evidence-based Prevention and Intervention Support Center (EPISCenter) and Lori Moore, MA. is an MST Expert/Manager of Network Partnerships, MST Services.

To read more about the success in Pennslyvania using evidence-based interventions, download this case study.Download  Now


Topics: MST, evidence-based, evidence-based intervention

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