May 23, 2016

The Department of Community Justice is committed to investing resources to increase its ability to meet the needs of the youth in their care. This is done by finding and implementing evidence-based strategies and evaluating internal practices. With a dedicated Research and Planning (RAP) team, evidence-based practices analyst, and representation at local and national conferences, DCJ has initiated an internal culture shift.

Craig Bachman, who oversees Custody Services at the Donald E. Long Home in the Juvenile Services Division (JSD), embraces this shift and works diligently to find the best solutions for youth housed and staff working in his facility, while balancing resources and the demands of families, system partners, and the public.

One of the ways Custody Services is stepping up their game is by participating in Performance-based Standards (PbS), a data-driven improvement model based on research. Multnomah County is the first county in the state to participate in the model, which holds juvenile justice agencies, facilities, and residential care programs to the highest standards for operations, programs, and services. It does this through data collection conducted twice per year, analysis and reporting of the data, and the development of facility improvement plans.

Twice yearly status checks on an entire operation is a big job, and Craig is committed to doing it.

“We are dedicated to doing the best work we can to provide a safe and healthy environment for youth entrusted to our care,” says Craig, adding that providing a safe and supportive environment for staff is equally important.

The PbS model allows for focused efforts in specific areas through its 91 individual performance measures in areas like health, safety, security, and behavioral health. Data is collected from youth and staff through electronic surveys and organized in subject matter areas like Behavioral Health, Safety, and Security. DCJ’s numbers are compared to the field average, which is the average of all other participating detention facilities in the country that use the model.

The anonymous surveys inform Craig and his staff of strengths and weaknesses within Custody Services. They are able to gauge whether the last improvement plan worked or not, and are encouraged to think critically about their organization.

A feedback loop gives youth and staff a voice in the decision-making.

Incorporating youth and staff surveys every six months enhances focus in developing improvement efforts, and provides a way for all of the staff in Custody Services to see how data can inform decisions.

“Staff have done an excellent job,” Craig says, acknowledging that one of the most difficult parts of employing evidence-based practices long term is adherence at the ground level. It requires continuous training, support from management, and buy-in from staff.

Long term initiatives aren’t the only thing in focus at Custody Services. Supporting staff with specialized training to address client needs continues to be a top priority.  

In October, Dr. Lisa Boesky, an expert in adolescent mental health and suicide, was invited to JSD for a site visit. Ensuring that staff have the awareness to detect a youth struggling with suicidal thoughts has remained a top priority and this training provided an opportunity to give staff some important skills.

Dr. Boesky helped Custody Services perform a comprehensive review of the facility’s current suicide prevention policies and practices, including recommended improvements. The review included contact with staff, youth, and visiting family members. Additionally, onsite Suicide Prevention training and Train-the-trainer models were provided.

Custody Services has implemented Dr. Boesky’s suggestions, most notably strengthening collaboration efforts between custody staff and the mental health team.

“We will keep providing training to staff, including more robust all day trainings,” says Craig “in an effort to make sure every staff member continues to feel prepared to effectively handle a situation with a suicidal youth.”

Important investments such as Performance-based Standards and suicide prevention training are several ways that DCJ’s Juvenile Services Division is striving to ensure that the youth in DCJ’s custody get what they need during their time with the department.