Families and youths in three counties will eventually have access to more treatment and support services as a result of a state-funded pilot project.

El Paso County took the lead in applying for a program that will boost resources in a three-county jurisdiction that includes Teller and Park Counties. The University of Denver will work with a family treatment provider in El Paso County to jump-start a multisystemic therapy (MST) program through certification, training and ongoing supervision

“This grant will expand our service array for youth and families and will help keep youth out of the criminal justice system,” said Julie Krow, El Paso County Department of Human Services executive director. “It will strengthen families and help avoid residential care for children or transition them back to their homes, with kin, or to foster care.”

Evidenced-based multisystemic therapy is an intensive family and community-based treatment for serious juvenile offenders and their families, and children experiencing abuse and neglect. This includes youth at risk of out-of-home placement due to mental health disorders; young adults who have aged out of the juvenile justice system and are at high risk for recidivism; juvenile offenders who are transitioning from incarceration and returning to the community; teens struggling with drug and alcohol abuse and dependency; and youth who engage in criminal sexual behavior. The primary goals of MST are to decrease youth criminal behavior and out-of-home placements.

Currently, there is only one MST provider in El Paso County. Families in Park and Teller counties receive these services only if they travel to Colorado Springs, which can take several hours one way if traveling from Park County. Families in crisis and youth at serious risk of criminal justice involvement may experience significant wait times.

Although the project will boost service options for three counties, the Department of Human Services in each county will serve as the administrative and coordinating hub.

Several providers have expressed interest in the project and will work with the University of Denver’s Center for Effective Interventions (CEI). These providers are already focused on serving lower-income families who are typically enrolled in Health First Colorado and are often involved with public systems.

“MST is a flexible intervention that meets each family’s unique needs, while doing so within a proven structure,” said Suzanne Kerns, University of Denver Center for Effective Interventions executive director. “The Center for Effective Interventions is looking forward to working collaboratively with El Paso, Park and Teller County leadership to make MST available to more families.”

The entire region will benefit from the additional service capacity, including bringing services to rural areas.

“This has been a creative effort to build additional support services in the community,” said Douglas Greenberg, a management analyst with El Paso County Department of Human Services who helped coordinate efforts. “The Pay for Success Initiative builds on collaboration from state and county governments, private investors, higher education, and behavioral healthcare providers.”