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The Research

The Transition RTC focuses on the school-to-work transition for transition age youth and young adults with serious mental health conditions, thus our studies inform interventions that support successes in this critical transition.  Because this field of research is in its infancy there is little research upon which to base the design of new interventions. Additionally, system issues often present many barriers to offering appropriate interventions for this population. Thus, part of our research framework is to conduct studies that simultaneously contribute to intervention development from three approaches;

  1. population studies of transition age youth and young adults with serious mental health conditions and their circumstances,
  2. studies of systems in which interventions are placed, and
  3. direct studies of interventions themselves

Our studies also reflect recognition that within the school-to-work transition there are many smaller and often overlapping steps. Therefore this program of research examines two stages of education/training:

Research Studies

Support of Schooling & Early Employment in Justice-System Involved Emerging Adults
The goal of this study is to complete the early steps of the scientific process of establishing a vocational support model for transition age youth and young adults (TAYYA) with juvenile or criminal justice system histories. This study will conduct the feasibility work for developing a “Life Coaches” vocational support component to address the vocational needs of TAYYA with serious mental health conditions and a recent arrest or release from incarceration. Consumer input on how to modify the already existing “Life Coach” adaptation of Multisystemic Therapy (MST; Henggeler, 1996) will guide this research. The study will specify the adaptations in a manual, develop a fidelity measure, examine the ability of the intervention to recruit and retain clients, and conduct a pilot randomized control trial. Trauma Pamphlet.
Appealing Features of Vocational Supports for Latino and non-Latino TAYYA Consumers
The goal is to provide information that will form a better foundation for the next version of culturally informed employment programs for transition age youth and young adults (TAYYA) with serious mental health conditions (SMHC) with a particular focus on Latinos.This qualitative study will investigate consumer perspectives concerning what programmatic, cultural, developmental and contextual factors encourage participation in three prominent adult employment support models (Clubhouses, IPS programs, or vocational rehabilitation delivered through state agencies of VR) among Latino and Non-Latino TAYYA with SMHC.   In many cases, the qualitative interviews will be conducted by trained TAYYA consumers working as Project Associates on the RTC. More
Program Factors that Enhance or Deter Innovative Approaches to Improve Child & Adult mental Health Services Coordination
The goal of the study is to provide information that will enhance future innovative efforts to improve child-adult mental health systems coordination. This study examines mental health (MH) programs to identify program-based risk markers for poor child-adult MH program coordination and malleable factors in programs that do and do not have good child-adult coordination. The study uses social network analysis, an innovative services research method, to measure child-adult MH service coordination. We will assess risk markers and malleable factors from the perspective of key stakeholders within child and adult MH providers. The study will be conducted in one of the states that receives a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Healthy Transitions grant to improve services for transition age youth through improved service provision and infrastructure change
Adapting Evidence-Based Supported Employment for Transition Age Youth
This study begins to develop a supported employment model tailored for transition age youth and young adults (TAYYA) with serious mental health conditions. This is a feasibility study of an adaptation to the Individualized Placement and Support (IPS) model, which is an evidence-based supported employment approach for adults with serious mental health conditions.  This adaptation for TAYYA will build on a previous adaptation of IPS that is a combined Supported Employment-Supported Education (SE/SEd) model for use with adults with first episode psychosis, who are typically young adults.  The TAYYA adaptation adds a peer mentoring component to the SE/SEd IPS model.  Feasibility work will include manual development, a small trial to work out clinical issues, then a small pilot study to assess the clinical approach, research design, and the appropriateness of the research measures. Brief Summary
Making a Difference in High School
This study seeks to identify high school interventions and family and individual factors that are associated with a higher likelihood of high school completion, preparation for employment through post-secondary education and/or training, and post-secondary employment in students with emotional disturbance.  The study analyzes data from the National Longitudinal Study-2 (NLTS-2).  The NLTS-2 followed, for seven years, a nationally representative sample of middle and high school students receiving special education in all disability categories, including emotional disturbance, at ages 13-16.  It captured key characteristics of the students, their families, their school programs, their experiences, and their secondary and post-secondary school and work outcomes.
Age-Associated Need, Services, & Outcomes of Participants Enrolled in Supported Education
The goal of this study is to find ways to modify a current supported education program for adults that would result in greater success with transition age youth and young adults with serious mental health conditions.  By adding transition age youth and young adults to an already existing randomized clinical trial of a supported education program for adults with serious mental illness, the study will seek to determine how younger adults differ from each other and the older adults (>30) in their needs, use of different intervention components, intervention participation (e.g. duration of intervention), and outcomes.
Job Seeking Experiences and Employers' Perceptions of TAYYA with Serious Mental Health Conditions
The goal of this study is to provide information that interventions can use to enhance the likelihood of successful, affirming job-seeking experiences among transition age youth and young adults (TAYYA) with serious mental health conditions (SMHC). This innovative qualitative study will explore the interaction between employers and job-seeking TAYYA with SMHC with and without justice system records. Researchers will interview TAYYA to elicit their experiences and outcomes from job-seeking experiences.  Based on these findings they will interview employers that are representative of the kinds of jobs for which TAYYA apply to elicit their experiences with hiring TAYYA with SMHC,  and processes used to screen job applicants regarding criminal history and other factors. 
Young Adults as Peer Recovery Workers: Perspectives of Workers and Supervisors

Young adults (between ages 18-30) with mental health conditions experience high rates of unemployment, even though a majority of them want to work and have careers. Like their age-related peers, they perceive employment and career development as opportunities to be self-sufficient and become valued members of society. Unfortunately, research has not identified any vocational intervention and support that effectively promotes these employment outcomes. 

Young adults with mental health conditions are increasingly finding rewarding work as peer recovery workers/mentors (PRW). PRW is a general term referring to people in recovery from mental health and/or addictions issues who use self-disclosure to provide people with direct emotional support, aid in developing a recovery plan, and help navigating the health system. Employment as PRWs appear to introduce young adults PRWs to various career paths, as evidenced by those who have moved on to different jobs in mental health (as a peer or not), other health-related jobs, and/or higher education.   

The purpose of this pilot study is to identify the facilitators of and barriers to the employment of young adults as PRWs. We plan to conduct focus groups at two (2) provider sites that employ (as staff or consultants) a number of young adult PRWs. At each of those sites, there will be one focus group for the PRWs and one for supervisors and overseers of PRWs. Jonathan Delman, the Principle Investigator, will work with the interested mental health programs to coordinate the focus groups. Focus groups will be scheduled at the convenience of the participants with respect for their schedules.

This study is being sponsored by the Learning & Working During the Transition to Adulthood Rehabilitation Research & Training Center (RTC), at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The RTC's aims include conducting research to improve the poor employment outcomes for young adults with mental health conditions, as well as the potential for career growth. The RTC and this study are funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).