From the September 2021 Desktop News | Over the past several years, the Center for Youth Development and Intervention (CYDI) has become an example on UA’s campus of successful community engagement. Through community-based research, scholars at the center hope to improve life for those around them and throughout the world.
“One in five children and adolescents in the US need mental health services,” said Dr. Susan White, psychology professor and Director of the CYDI. “In fact, most mental health disorders emerge by early adolescence. Unfortunately, there is a considerable gap in translating effective interventions into real-world delivery, especially for youth.”
The CYDI strives to close this gap. This team of interdisciplinary researchers and clinicians works in state-of-the-art facilities to create impactful processes in the prevention, remediation, and management of behavioral, emotional, and neurodevelopmental conditions present in children. By partnering with local families, the CYDI can create processes that are both well-researched and actually work in their patients’ lives.
One method members of the CYDI have used to do this is Building the Bridge, a program started by White in 2019. Here, faculty members can connect local families with the assistance they need, and families can inform researchers about what works and what doesn’t work for their families. Several core and affiliated faculty of the CYDI have worked on various initiatives related to Building the Bridge, which has contributed to several grant applications and peer-reviewed publications.
“I think the biggest benefit to this research is letting the participants’ voices be heard,” White said. “So we (the researchers) make educated assumptions about what we think obstacles are to treatment access, for instance. But that doesn’t mean it applies in every region, or to every segment of society—there are other things that might play a big role in terms of how families access care that we may not know or think about.”
This type of research, known as patient-centered outcome research, had increased benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because patients could not travel to clinics to conduct research, the CYDI moved their operation fully online. Now, in addition to a digital newsletter, they host virtual workshops aimed to help parents navigate the world of parenting.
In addition to these workshops, which will continue this fall, Building the Bridge has held virtual town halls for families and other researchers to attend. They also have a database of their workshops online so parents, teachers, and other community members can learn more about different behavioral processes.