Category: Featured Post

The Top 5 Worst Reasons Why…

We help providers, professionals, and parents, identify and reduce risk behaviors among youth and young adults. So you might imagine that in our line of work that we’ve “heard it all.”

And yes, we’ve heard a lot, but it’s not the stories and information that young people share that shocks us. It’s what we hear from youth-centric organizations (provider groups, schools, health departments…) about why they don’t screen for risk behaviors that we find flat out scary.

Here are the top 5 worst reasons we’ve heard…so far.

1. If we know about a risk we’ll be responsible to take action. At it’s core, we believe that this reason isn’t just about liability – it’s about the fear of what happens if something goes wrong. Think past that initial reaction – and it becomes obvious that we’d all feel equally terrible (and potentially, even as liable) if something goes wrong (such as an overdose, a suicide attempt, unreported abuse or bullying…) and we didn’t know about it in advance. No one is expecting you to be the expert at every risk or situation. Identifying risks in advance allows youth to “get it off their chest” and you to provide resources and when necessary referrals to the right experts who can help to prevent bad things from getting worse – or maybe even from happening at all.

2. We don’t have the time. It’s true, you always need more time. Our company was founded by a clinician with years of experience in busy pediatric and adolescent practices. Finding practical solutions that minimize impact on time and workflow is at the heart of everything we do. Did you know that in less than 5 minutes RAAPS identifies the risks that contribute most to preventable illness and death in young people aged 9 to 24? Even in the tightest of workflows in organizations that run like clockwork you’ll find a 5-minute window of wait time for the patient – why not put that time to (really meaningful) use?

3. We don’t have the money. You’ve heard that expression: “If it’s important you’ll find a way. If it’s not you’ll find an excuse.” To be fair, we think this reason is more about priorities than excuses. There are so many competing priorities for organizations that serve youth it’s hard for anything new to find it’s way to the top of the list. Think about the things that do get prioritized: vaccines; assessments of height, weight and blood pressure; current medications and allergies… Why do these things sift to the top? They save lives. Now think about this CDC statistic: risk behaviors are responsible for 3 out of 4 (75%) of all preventable deaths and illness in youth. Risk screening saves lives. And the cost? One month of access to the RAAPS system costs the same as a single case of coffee pods or printing paper. Really, we think it’s all about the priorities.

4. We don’t want to upset parents. That’s cool. Honestly, neither do we, but realistically how upset do you think parents will be if there is an uptick in bullying, an increase in youth carrying weapons, or a widespread incidence of sexual abuse that could have been identified with standardized screening? As providers of risk identification and reduction tools we have time-tested, proven strategies and resources for helping parents understand risk screening – why it’s important and how it helps. And trust us, that’s an easier conversation to have proactively than reactively.

5. We don’t know what to say. There’s no doubt: conversations about risk are uncomfortable. But did you know that having a trusted adult to confide in is one of the single most important mitigating factors in reducing youth risk? Just by being present and starting the conversation you’ve helped. So take the next step. If you are uncomfortable with discussing certain topics – get help. Participate in a workshop on adolescent-focused motivational interviewing; choose a risk screening system that offers built in health education so all youth get the same information (every time); and make sure that system provides you with evidence-based messages and talking points to help get the conversation started. Because let’s be real – saving a life significantly outweighs one uncomfortable conversation.

Lack of resources from university health centers are turning away students from seeking mental health

One in 4 college students deal with some kind of mental health issue. Colleges across the country say they’re there to help, but the TODAY show’s six-month investigation from 22 students at 10 different universities revealed that students are getting kicked out of college for seeking help. Could the reason for this be the lack of resources from university health centers?

The coverage tells the story of Jasmine, a student at the University of Chicago, who began struggling with depression and went to seek help at the school’s counseling center. Unequipped and unprepared to handle her situation, they sent her off to the hospital where she was kept for two weeks. She returned to school forced to sign a contract that asked her to leave campus immediately. This forced mental leave is making its way to headlines of college campus newspapers all over the country. The narrative seems to be that students are reluctant to seek help at college counseling centers to risk the embarrassing and harsh reality of being sent home against their will.

This poses a very important question. What message are we sending students? It’s a message filled with fear of being sent to the psychiatric ward and kicked out of school. Only 60% of students struggling actually end up seeking help, but recent data collected by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University at 139 college and university counseling centers, from 2009-2010 through 2014-2015, reflects “slow but consistent” growth in students reporting depression, anxiety and social anxiety. And 20% of students seeking mental health treatment are taking up about half of all campus counseling center appointments.

While there are certainly growing concerns over other mental health issues affecting college students today, it’s safe to presume that a major issue in this situation is the lack of resources from university health centers to screen, identify and reduce risky behaviors. According to CDC data, risky behaviors are the primary cause of morbidity and mortality among adolescents and young adults. This is especially relevant for college students who are experiencing a new freedom and engaging in developmentally appropriate (but often risky) experimental behavior. The need is clear: effective preventive care for this age group must include accurate and consistent risk identification and behavior change counseling.

Many institutions launch annual campus-wide surveys to assess student alcohol use and required surveys such as Title IX sexual violence “climate” surveys. These surveys play a critical role in understanding health risks of students, and help to direct programming funds. However, for the student struggling with a specific issue such as depression, or sexual assault, there is no opportunity to disclosure their issues and receive intervention or follow-up—a missed opportunity with the potential for significant impact on the student’s health, quality of life, and academic success. Identifiable campus-wide surveys provide insight for the institution – and actionable intervention for the student before their issues grow to an unmanageable level.

Consistent and early identification and reduction of student risk behaviors is critical for University Health Centers. If we can better equip professionals at universities and colleges with the tools they need for early identification of students in need, we can shift the message we’re sending from fear to hope. Developed by experts and vetted by young adults, RAAPS and ACT tools address these issues and more, in language students relate to, in an online format, which allows students to feel comfortable answering honestly across the range of risk topics.

Universities are desperate for technology that helps identify risks and secures accurate data in a timely fashion. Universities and colleges face a unique challenge—caring for the physical and mental health of students and providing a safe environment that supports academic achievement, all with limited time and budgets.

An article from the Huffington Post says, “The campus centers are continually understaffed because their budgets are often based on some kind of historical calculation of the number of students enrolled and previous rates of students requesting appointments.”

These are serious issues. We hope you will join us in working together to ensure that all of the students in your population are screened for risky behaviors that impact their health and academic success. Don’t grapple with these issues alone. You have the opportunity to make a real and lasting positive change in your student’s health and your institution’s financial bottom line.

What are the next steps?

Download the Risky Business on Campus eBook to explore the top 10 considerations for identifying risk behaviors of college students and to find out how you can enhance your services to save a life.

36 seconds.

According to a JAMA Pediatrics study, that’s how long the average conversation lasted when teens were asked about sexual health during their last annual health maintenance exam. Even more disappointing, the topic was not discussed with 1 out of 3 teens.

I could continue on with more data that supports the adverse reality, but I think it’s time to pause and evaluate. As health care professionals, we have the responsibility to educate, equip and inform our young people when it comes to their sexual health. We play a critical role in further reducing teen pregnancy rates and STIs through the care we provide to adolescent patients.

That’s where our newly developed technology comes in. Launched in February and funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, ACT for Sexual Health was created to provide a safe environment for teens to disclose risky sexual behaviors that will translate into a proactive plan for reproductive health and safer sex—with an end goal of reducing individual STI and pregnancy risk.

The self-paced module engages teens with interactive, evidence-based risk behavior assessment and counseling to gather honest data. The ACT works either independently or with the RAAPS assessment, and provides youth with technology-based behavior counseling, education, behavior change strategies, and a risk-reduction plan tailored to the youth’s stage of change.

One of our favorite product characteristics is the ongoing dialogue. To provide support between visits, an online portal and text messaging option is available to help keep teens on the right track.

ACT for Sexual Health will develop a comprehensive sexual health history, identifying risky behaviors such as:

  • Early onset of sexual activity
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Not using a condom during last intercourse
  • Not using contraceptives
  • Using drugs or alcohol prior to sex

What are you waiting for? Let’s talk about sex! Click here to read more information about ACT for Sexual Health or schedule a free 20-minute demo.


Spotlight: RAAPS 2.0!

Happy New Year! At Possibilities for Change, we couldn’t be more thrilled about all the exciting developments 2016 has in store! For our first blog post of the new year we’d like to share with you the new and improved RAAPS 2.0. In the spirit of continual improvement, we have been pouring over user feedback. Taking what we learned from your suggestions we have developed and implemented new features that will help to tailor the 2.0 system to your clients’ individual needs. Over the next few months we will unpack these new features for you to better showcase their benefit to the RAAPS system and, ultimately, you!

The first of these new features we’d like to shine our spotlight on is our new counselor interface with tailored dashboard. This interface will provide counselors with a comprehensive view of the risk behaviors of the adolescents’ they see. The dashboard comes complete with an overview of previous and current risk behavior responses from individual teens, messages tailored to support your counseling on the specific, identified risk behaviors, and a section to log behavior change goals discussed as part of your risk reduction counseling.

So, why is this important?

Well, at Possibilities for Change we recognize health and wellness professionals have heavy caseloads. We also recognize that each individual adolescent is unique. Our new counselor interface with tailored dashboard promotes efficiency and quality, individualized care. Counselors now have one location where they can view and log all relevant risk behavior information for specific clients as well as access evidence-based information and messages customized to suit their clients’ needs.

We could talk for hours about all of the new benefits we’ve built into RAAPS 2.0 but we’d rather you check out the improvements for yourself – after all, your feedback fueled the change!

If you’d like to check out RAAPS 2.0, now is the perfect time! Please contact us to set up a demo. We can’t wait to walk you through the new system and its user friendly features.

Continual Quality Improvement – For You! (And the youth and young adults you work with.)

Health and wellness professionals are in constant pursuit of quality improvement. And we’re here to support your efforts.  Possibilities for Change – the parent company for RAAPS – is implementing several new improvements to help make the identification and reduction of risk behaviors even easier and more effective:

Coming Soon:  RAAPS 2.0 – A new platform, new look and feel – and most importantly, new features!

We’re in the final phases of development on a new platform for the RAAPS system.  While the original features that made RAAPS so effective will still be there, we’re adding functionality designed to make the system even more engaging and user-friendly.  Just a few of these new features:

New Counselor Interface with a Tailored Dashboard: The upgraded system will provide counselors with a view of just the youth or young adults that they are managing – to facilitate risk management and referral tracking.  After selecting an individual, the counselor can see a full dashboard just for that patient which provides a comprehensive but easy to use overview, including any:

– Previously identified risks and/or newly identified risks (and the changes over time)
– Evidence-base messages to support counseling for those risks
– Behavior change goals that were discussed, and brief summaries of logged notes from current and previous sessions

In addition, shortly after the platform launch, two new counselor-support modules will be available for smoking cessation and sexual health counseling.

Full optimization for all internet-enabled devices – RAAPS has always made it engaging for youth and young adults to complete the survey via a laptop or hand-held tablet in the waiting room (allowing the counselor to know critical risks before the appointment begins).  And now the RAAPS survey can be easily completed via smartphone (a must-have accessory for our younger generation).

Upgraded reporting and administration– RAAPS individual and population based risk tracking and outcomes reporting will be enhanced with new easy to read, “at-a-glance” formats, complete with charts and several new built-in reports – which were selected based on user feedback.  The administrative interface will be upgraded to allow multiple levels of administrative access – and the designation and tracking of multiple groups or sites within an organization.

The transition for current RAAPS users should be smooth – with minimal training required. We’re expecting to launch the new platform by mid-May – and will be reaching out to all current users with educational materials (including a step-by-step user guide and a training webinar) in the next few weeks.

If you’ve been thinking about using RAAPS – now is the perfect time! Please contact us to set up a demo and we’ll be happy to walk you through the new system and features.