Tag: rapid assessment for adolescent preventative services

3 Tips for Even Stronger Connections with Youth

You know the scenario: you administered the Rapid Assessment for Adolescent Preventive Services (RAAPS) risk assessment and are ready to meet with youth to confidently discuss their identified risks. But how do you start the conversation? And once it’s started, how do you help guide them towards healthier behaviors?

Coaching youth toward behavior change is arguably just as important (if not more important) as the risk screening. Luckily, Motivational Interviewing (MI) is here to help. MI has been studied extensively and shown to be an effective approach with youth to reduce risks (like substance abuse, unintentional injuries and unsafe sexual behaviors). Here are three questions to ask yourself to determine if improving your MI skills would be helpful in guiding your youth towards safer behaviors:

  1. What are you doing to connect with youth? MI helps create the spirit of how you’re talking with youth; it shows commitment to evidence-based strategies and helps improve quality of services.
  2. How are you communicating with youth on identified risk behaviors? MI equips you with strategies to improve your ability to discuss identified risks and motivate youth toward healthy decisions.
  3. How are you cultivating your skills in working with youth? Youth risk is different than adult risk, which means you’re going to need specific skills. That’s why adolescent-specific MI training is so important. MI creates an environment that allows youth to disclose information about their risk behaviors, improve their motivation to change, and seek advice on how to do so. Dynamic and engaging MI workshops can help you improve your skills in using MI to more effectively motivate the youth you serve.

 Before you can coach youth on risk reduction, you need to know the risks! RAAPS is a reliable and validated assessment and coaching tool that quickly identifies risk behaviors in youth and provides simple health messages to support behavior change and ongoing discussion with a professional; it’s developed especially for the needs of youth…and the professionals (like you) who care for them.

To learn more about how Adolescent-focused MI Training can facilitate those important conversations and help youth build positive attitudes, language, and actions, check out our newly released whitepaper: Adolescent-focused Motivational Interviewing (MI): Making the case for more effective communication with youth.

For more information on scheduling an MI Training at your organization, contact us at info@pos4chg.org.

No Fear: Youth Risk Screening

Connecting with teens is tough, especially when you’re a professional looking to discuss serious topics like mental health, substance abuse or sex. In short: risk screening can feel overwhelming, even scary—but that shouldn’t hold you back. According to the CDC, risk behaviors are responsible for 3 out of 4 (75%) preventable deaths and illness in youth. Having a trusted adult to confide in is one of the single most important mitigating factors in reducing youth risk.

Luckily, Rapid Assessment for Adolescent Preventive Services (RAAPS) is here to help. RAAPS is a reliable and validated assessment and coaching tool that identifies risk behaviors in youth and provides simple health messages to support behavior change.

Instead of letting your fears of comprehensive youth screening become barriers, let them be your guide! Here are a few examples:

  • Fear of not having the resources to address risks that may be identified. In addition to helping you identify key risks, RAAPS provides built in health education and national resources to help you navigate conversations around risk topics that may be uncomfortable. This opens the door for youth to connect with you as a trusted adult without you having to be an expert on every risk behavior or situation.
  • Fear of not having enough time. Finding practical solutions that minimize impact on time and workflow was at the heart of the development of RAAPS. In less than 5 minutes the 21 RAAPS questions identify the risk behaviors that contribute most to preventable illness and premature death in young people aged 9 to 24. Even in the tightest of workflows, in organizations that run like clockwork, finding a 5-minute window of time for risk screening could save a life!
  • Fear of upsetting parents. We get it, parents may be uncomfortable with the idea of their child being asked about risk factors and behaviors. You can help parents understand the importance by explaining that standardized risk screening is an opportunity to stop an uptick in bullying, prevent a potential suicide, or identify incidences of sexual abuse. Additionally, RAAPS technology provides a suite of resources to use when talking with parents that can help these conversations go a little smoother.

Remember, just by being present and starting the conversation you are helping. If you want to take your skills even further, Possibilities for Change offers Adolescent-Focused Motivational Interviewing workshops to help you better connect with the youth you serve. We’re excited to offer a training with open registration for the first time—taking place on June 3rd in Ann Arbor, MI! This in-person workshop will help you to learn and translate new MI knowledge into effective practice through a dynamic and engaging experience. Only 20 spaces available, so register today!

Creating a judgement free zone…

Most professionals who work with youth try to approach each interaction with an open mind.  Research shows this is an important step to making youth feel comfortable.  What else goes into creating a safe place for youth to share?  Some of the steps are obvious – but we think a few may surprise you!  Here are 5 critical steps to creating a truly judgement-free zone…

  1. Know the law! Confidentiality laws and minor consent vary from state to state.  The first step to ensuring a youth-friendly approach is understanding the confidentiality laws in your state.  Next is implementing a workflow that integrates and accommodates these laws (including processes for everything from notification of test results to insurance billing).  It is imperative that youth understand their rights, and what will or won’t be shared with their parents.  Explaining and sharing this information goes a long way towards building trust.
  2. Be non-verbal! Well – just for the assessment, anyway.  When a risk assessment is delivered verbally, it’s our nature to jump in and talk about each risk as soon as it is identified – making it hard to get to every question.  More importantly, it’s just not in a teen’s nature to be forthcoming about risk when asked questions face-to-face.  Research shows youth respond most honestly when screened with technology – but if that is not an option, then old-school pen and paper is the next best thing.
  3. Standardize your approach! There’s a reason why every leading youth health organization recommends a validated, standardized risk assessment. As humans we have subconscious biases and deeply held personal beliefs that can influence our approach to risk screening.  This can be especially prevalent with home-grown risk assessments that are cobbled together with “select” questions pulled from a number of different tools.   A validated, standardized screening tool eliminates individual (or even organizational) culture bias and ensures all youth are screened the same way, every time.
  4. No shoulder surfing! It catches many parents off guard when their “baby” is suddenly old enough to complete a risk assessment on their own.  You may find them peering “helpfully” over their tween or teen’s shoulder.  It’s important to provide youth with a private space to complete a risk assessment.  This is an essential step in increasing honesty in youth response.  Engaging and educating parents is also important. They need to be reassured of the importance of this step in their son or daughter’s development.
  5. Watch your body! It’s easy to get so focused on youth that we forget what’s happening with our own body language.  Young people are very sensitive to non-verbals – and they are looking for any signs that you might be judging them (however unintentional those signs may be on our part!)  So avoid little things like crossing your arms, narrowing your eyes, or raising an eyebrow.  (And the same rules apply to your tone and speech.)

For more information, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine has some helpful resources on confidentiality and this case study highlights effective adolescent workflows across three very different settings.

Click here to learn more about RAAPS – a standardized, validated, and technology-based risk screening system developed especially for youth (and the providers and professionals that work with them)

Getting to “Why?”

How boot-camp took us back to the future.

Our team recently went through a strategic planning “boot-camp” as part of a grant requirement.  A mandatory part of the exercise was justifying our value…what do we bring to the table, how do we help?

This was definitely a test.   Our short answers, in rapid succession:

  • “Because 75% of serious illness and death in youth is preventable…”
  • “Because nearly half of all youth who commit suicide visited a healthcare provider within the previous month…”
  • “Umm…because it’s the right thing to do?”

We were pushed further: “What is in it for your users – the healthcare provider, the professional working with youth?  How are you helping them?”

Ahhh – there it was, the lightbulb moment!

Preventing avoidable illness and death in youth is our mission – it’s the reason why we do what we do.  It’s the same mission that drives most of us in this work.

But making it as easy as possible for providers and professionals, to identify and counsel youth on the risky behaviors that drive our mission…making it painless…THAT is the reason behind WHY we’ve created every single solution and service we offer.

It’s the reason why RAAPS was created in the first place.  It was our first “tool”. RAAPS was developed to solve all of the workflow and practice management issues that get in the way of your mission:

  • Validated, short-format. Why? Your time is short – RAAPS has been proven to identify the most significant risks – in minutes.
  • Why? To ensure every youth is screened the same way – with the same questions – every time.
  • Tablet / smartphone delivery. Why? Youth engage honestly with technology – you don’t have to “ask” all of the questions – instead you can use your time to follow up on the risks identified.
  • Prioritized, evidence-based talking points. Why?  To make it easier to get the conversation started specific to the risks identified – we all have different experience and comfort levels with risk topics.

Yes, we could go on…  but back to boot-camp.  It was a great experience – if for no other reason than it reminded us of why we continue to develop our technology… facilitate the adolescent-focused MI trainings… write the books…. Why we got started and where we are going into the future – as we achieve our mission together with all of you!

Why RAAPS?

RAAPS versus GAPS and other homegrown risk screening tools

People pose the “why?” question every day. Why should I invest the time, energy and resources into an adolescent risk screening and counseling technology? We may be biased, but our answer is simple: why not?

Before we dive into the several reasons why thousands of sites nationwide find tremendous value of integrating RAAPS into their practice or program, here is the 140-character, tweet-friendly definition of RAAPS: a standardized, validated risk assessment and behavior change counseling tool to support health professionals working with adolescents.

In simplified language, we make it easy for health professionals to do their job. We partner with clinicians, counselors and other providers who are passionate about improving adolescent health. Our partners—like school-based health centers, pediatric offices, sexual health clinics, schools, etc.—operate within a preventative-oriented culture (not crisis-oriented) and genuinely care about identifying risks, improving outcomes and changing lives. It’s not for the faint of heart.

RAAPS can make you money

“Say what?!” (Please excuse our language. Sometimes we find the way teens speak kind of catchy.) Yes, our leading risk assessments can save you money. How?

  • RAAPS dramatically improves the productivity of your existing staff and the effectiveness of your operations. You will no longer have to sit face-to-face with your patient, ask the sometimes-awkward questions, record the data, then figure out how to best counsel the patient to promote positive behavior change. RAAPS saves a provider’s time by flagging potential risk behaviors and offering health message talking points to guide the conversation.
  • By using a standardized, validated tool (RAAPS) to screen adolescents each month, the cloud-based system may be able to pay for itself. Assuming an average insurance reimbursement rate of $5 per administration, your sites would need to use the system with only 10 patients per month in order to recover the cost of using the system. #winning

RAAPS’ real-time tracking and easy to use reporting measures outcomes

Can your risk screening tool do this? If it’s not RAAPS, the answer is likely no. Access to individual and population data allows you to identify trends and assess your intervention effectiveness. Plus, data gathered can be helpful when applying for grants and gaining additional funding.

RAAPS asks the right questions

The risk landscape is always changing and unfortunately widening, which is why we continue to update or modify our questions to elicit honest responses from teens. Other risk screening tools, such as GAPS, hasn’t been updated since the early 2000’s. The way teens speak and the risks they’re involved in have changed drastically since the era of Boy Meets World and Backstreet Boys. At Possibilities for Change, we continue to identify issues and areas that are harmful to a teen’s health and well-being. One of the many beautiful things about RAAPS is that all questions are scientifically validated—and we used teens to help us refine the actual questions so that they were more understandable and relevant! Unlike most homegrown tools, the RAAPS youth-friendly patient portal includes audio and bilingual health messages features to increase health literacy.

The 21-question RAAPS assessment falls within seven risk categories identified by the CDC as contributing to adolescent morbidity and mortality. The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine has our back, citing RAAPS as one of their important resources, handouts, toolkits and treatment protocols for healthcare providers to use in their practices.

In our fast-paced, technology-driven world, the manner and method of how we ask is just as important as what we ask. When it comes to discussions around things like sexual behavior and alcohol use, teens are more honest and comfortable answering to a tablet or other technology than an adult. The assessment takes about 5 minutes to complete—a better alternative to other assessments out there that take more than a half hour. Ain’t nobody got time for that! (We warned you.)

Learn more about RAAPS at possibilitiesforchange.com or drop us a line at info@pos4chg.org.