School-aged children who succumb to drug use or mental health troubles suffer ill effects that can last for the rest of their lives. Studies show that at-risk children can avoid the worst consequences of drug, behavioral, or mental health problems if they receive early care as part of an integrated program of treatment and response. But most cities have trouble packaging several services together to provide effective treatment for children.
In the 1990s, Cayuga County, New York, had more than 20 different supplemental health and educational services available for school-aged children, but often faced difficulties in targeting their audience or duplicated their efforts. First implemented in 2000, the county's Partnership for Results (PFR) pulled these services together, providing a centralized place to share information and resources to aid children more effectively.
The structure of the Partnership blends public and private. The Partnership is a private corporation, but its Board of Directors is made up entirely of leaders from city and county government agencies. The Board creates an overarching plan that incorporates all of the specialties of its component parts, from after school programs to drug treatment plans. The professional relationships fostered by the collaborative work of the Board are even more important. Under the PFR, leaders of services that usually remain separate are more willing to cooperate with their fellows and more aware of other services that are available.
The PFR supports more than 20 programs, all of which are evidence-based, and carefully tested to meet or exceed the performance of the best practices in the field. Some are curriculum-based. Others focus on prevention through educating parents or even providing mental health care before problem behaviors become acute. Therapeutic programs help treat children who engage in self-destructive behavior, who would otherwise be imprisoned.
Since the cornucopia of programs available can often be overwhelming to parents seeking help for their child, the PFR developed methods to direct them to the program that best meets their needs. The Adolescent Well-Being Assessment Instrument screens children for a variety of risky behaviors. This allows clinicians to develop comprehensive treatment plans, while sparing families the trouble and intrusion of the grueling battery of tests that had long been the norm.
After children are assessed as at risk, clinicians post information about treatment in a centralized database, so that their colleagues know exactly what services any given child needs and what he or she is currently receiving. Children are better served by this transparency, as it prevents both gaps and overlaps in care. Social service workers are able to use this data to ensure that program goals are being met and to identify particularly effective treatment practices for specific types of children. As of 2007, four other cities in New York have started to adopt the Partnership's model, and the state legislature has expressed support for the program, meaning many more cities may come on board.