Youth Services: Two Use Cases for the K-CAT® in Community Mental Health

Since 1972, Youth Services of Glenview/Northbrook, located northwest of Chicago, IL has been serving children, youth, and families as an institution committed to improving the lives of the community. The work that they do has many faces – groups for LGBTQ+ young people, youth-development and mentoring programs, health education, crisis intervention, and critically, mental health services for young people between the ages of 4 and 24. Understandably, Youth Services staff are very busy. 

The staff’s limited bandwidth drove the organization’s leadership to begin seeking ways to improve efficiency and better measure outcomes. They learned of the CAT-MH® and K-CAT® and approached Adaptive Testing Technologies to better understand how computerized adaptive testing can improve triage, matching, screening, and measurement. Recognizing the forward-thinking methods that Youth Services’ was seeking to improve their practice, ATT began  working with Youth Services to begin their implementation of the tools. Youth Services’ Outcomes Committee decided on a phased approach to implementation into the organization; a targeted approach to maximize clinical acceptability and usability. 

Phase one of the implementation began with auditing the progress of a subset of new clients. Every three months, Youth Services creates a new cohort of fifteen to twenty random clients who take the full K-CAT® battery of measures at baseline and are then reassessed every three months. The simplicity of this approach works well and does not add to administrative burden. 

The data is pooled and analyzed to get a broader perspective on individual client outcomes. The data informs opportunities to adjust treatment plans, show progress to clients, and allow clinicians to blend clinical intuition with quantitative data. This is one way in which Youth Services integrated the K-CAT® into their workflow. 

Phase two began last year as Youth Services used the K-CAT® within their social skills groups for children in elementary school through high school. The research is clear: Young people who struggle socially often struggle with symptoms of anxiety and / or depression. These groups are centered around building social skills but Youth Services wanted to understand if and how their participants’ mental health was changing throughout the course of the group. The K-CAT® presented the opportunity to measure this quickly and accurately with little burden on the participants. Participants are assessed on the first day of an 8-10 week group and then again at the conclusion of the group. The result of this assessment schedule has been a retooling and systematization of the social skills curriculum, one that will continue to be tweaked and improved after each session. In short, with the hard work of the staff and data provided by the K-CAT® the groups have formalized their already existing process of continuous improvement. 

Youth Services continues to see additional opportunities for serving their population. Through discrete uses of the tools, sustainable change is underway allowing clinicians to see the K-CAT® in action and experience the benefits first hand. This approach combines top-down and bottom-up systems of change to effectively work together. Youth Services is an organization that is organically moving towards the symbiotic combination of measurement-based care and clinical intuition.