Kansas Piloting Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST) With SDM® Model in Juvenile Justice

August 12, 2015 | Randy Bowman, Director of Community Based Services, KDOC-Juvenile Services


An Alternative to Secure and Non-Secure Placement  

An Alternative to Secure and Non-Secure Placement  

Kansas’s utilization of secure and non-secure placements in the juvenile justice system is higher than most states, and in fiscal year 2012 cost taxpayers approximately $32 million. Recognizing the research that calls into question the effectiveness of these traditional juvenile justice system responses, the Kansas Department of Corrections, Division of Juvenile Services (KDOC-JS), has become a voice for change in our state.  

To be an effective voice for change, we recognize that our own actions, through the State’s funding mechanisms, need to change. KDOC-JS pays the cost for each county to send a juvenile offender to a secure or non-secure placement; however, we make no significant investment in alternatives. Beginning in 2013, a collaborative effort between KDOC-JS, the 29th Judicial District Court and Court Services, the District Attorney’s office, Unified School District 500, and Wyandotte County Community Corrections launched a pilot project in Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Kansas. This project is investing state funding into a multi-systemic therapy (MST) program, with referrals to MST being guided by a Structured Decision Making® (SDM) disposition matrix.

Implementing MST in Kansas 

MST is one of the most extensively researched, and most effective, family and community-based interventions for juvenile offenders (see Blueprints ProgramsNREPP and Crimesolutions). MST is an intensive family- and community-based treatment program that focuses on addressing all environmental systems that impact young people who are committing chronic and/or violent offenses, their homes and families, schools and teachers, neighborhoods and friends. MST recognizes that each system plays a critical role in a youth’s world and each system requires attention when effective change is needed to improve the quality of life for youth and their families.  

Investing in such high-quality programs is an attractive alternative; however, advice received from other jurisdictions indicated we must be purposeful in matching youth to MST in order to achieve a reduction in secure and non-secure placements, thus avoiding “net widening.” KDOC-JS sought and was awarded a technical assistance grant from The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) to assist with the implementation of MST. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) was selected to provide onsite assistance to help meet the goals of reducing secure and non-secure placements.  

Over the summer of 2013, an advisory committee of local and state stakeholders worked to develop an implementation plan, including the SDM® disposition matrix that would guide referrals to MST. KDOC-JS awarded a contract to provide MST to PACES, Inc., and the first youth and families were enrolled in September 2013, with a capacity of four therapists who could serve 16 youth at a time and 48 per year.

Results in Wyandotte County 

Results from the use of MST and the SDM model have been significant. Overall, secure and non-secure placements have declined by 26% as of June 30, 2015 (from 239 to 177). These figures include a 29% reduction in the use of secure confinement (from 45 to 32) in a juvenile correctional facility. More significantly, these are high- or moderate-risk youth, as determined by the Youthful Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI) assessment, who are successful in their family and community-based setting, as evidenced by an 86% successful completion rate and 73% living at home, 73% in school/working, and 82% no new arrests.  

Compared to the typical Kansas juvenile justice response of secure or non-secure placement, these results are encouraging. KDOC-JS recently extended this contract for another year, and is sharing this example with our executive and legislative leadership in an effort to gain support for additional investments in MST and other high-quality program models.

Randy Bowman serves as the Director of Community Based Programs for the Kansas Department of Corrections, Division of Juvenile Services. The staff of Community Based Services is responsible for the administration of federal and state grants, supporting communities in their operation of local juvenile justice programs, and contracting with private providers of foster and group placements for juvenile offenders.

Randy has served the Kansas juvenile justice system and the youth who become justice involved since 1998.