William James Community Engagement

Expanding Services and Reaching New Populations

May 15, 2017

Honorable Christina Harms (Ret.), BA, JD; Robin Deutsch, PhD, ABPP; Aladdin Ossorio, PsyD; Gemima St. Louis, PhD; Robert Kinscherff, PhD, JD; Nadja N. Reilly, PhD; and Margaret Hannah, MEd, GCEC.

Social responsibility has always been a core value of William James College, and one that is particularly evident in the College’s commitment to serving local communities while simultaneously providing William James students opportunities to work with populations in need of their growing expertise. 

“Our Community Engagement team is always taking on new challenges, and 2017 is no exception. Today we are forging new partnerships and finding new experiences for our students with behavioral health providers, schools and government agencies that will further advance services for children and families, the elderly, and others,” says Robert Kinscherff, PhD, JD, Associate Vice-President for Community Engagement. “Here are some recent highlights.”

BRENNER CENTER

In addition to their general testing, learning disability testing, and neurodevelopmental testing programs, The Dr. Leon O. Brenner Center for Psychological Assessment and Consultation is working with a statewide Task Force on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) to establish more effective protocols for assessing and assisting children and adults who present with symptoms. Executive Director of the Brenner Center, Kelly Casey, PhD, is partnering with Enid Watson, M.Div., the Director of Screening and Early Identification at the Institute for Health and Recovery. By reviewing existing research, and assessment, they hope to establish a specialized assessment service to identify and assess children with FASD and provide referrals to Boston Children’s Hospital for parallel medical examinations. This program is ground-breaking in Massachusetts because it allows staff from William James and Children’s to collaborate on proper diagnoses and treatment plans for patients. Casey states that “a goal of the task force is to establish more advocacy for these patients by campaigning to broaden legal and medical awareness of FASD and by making sure that these individuals receive the benefits, accommodations, and services they need to succeed.”

The Brenner Center has also launched SageMind, a four-step program that puts adults in the driver’s seat in attending to their cognition as they age by providing them an integrated mind-brain-body health evaluation and a comprehensive neurocognitive assessment. Each participant will receive an individualized action plan and an opportunity for ongoing cognitive optimization. This will allow adults to use cutting edge research to monitor and enhance cognition as they age, according to Casey.

FREEDMAN CENTER

The Richard I. and Joan L. Freedman Center for Child and Family Development continues its outreach to a diversity of populations while staying true to its mission of promotion of mental wellness and the prevention of mental illness. One recent example can be seen in the Center’s INTERFACE Referral Service helpline which last year enhanced its services for older adults. Given that currently in the statewide population, 20% of residents ages 65 and over have been diagnosed with a behavioral health condition, it became clear that a particular emphasis on specialized training for helpline staff, who include William James College students, was critical to better serve the older population within the services’ subscribing communities. This training was designed and led by one of the nation’s experts in the field of geropsychology and faculty at William James College, Dr. Erlene Rosowsky.

In addition, Freedman Center Executive Director Margaret Hannah, MEd, GCEC, was recently appointed to a trailblazing new state commission focused on the promotion of mental wellness and the prevention of mental illness. The Special Commission on Behavioral Health Promotion and Upstream Prevention recognizes the importance of upstream prevention of mental health disorders and investing in prevention programs across the state. Hannah says “the Commission is an opportunity to address pressing behavioral health issues while at the same time assessing our current behavioral health system to find ways to fund prevention programs that work. Bringing this learning from the Commission back to our William James students will contribute additional hands-on training and promote work force development, which is of utmost importance to the mission of William James College, and specifically the Department of Community Engagement.”

PATHWAYS

The PATHWAYS Program is adding to established partnerships with Urban Sciences Academy and West Roxbury Academy by working with John D. O’Bryant High School in Roxbury. PATHWAYS addresses the psychosocial wellbeing of students who face academic challenges and are at risk of failing to graduate by placement of William James student counselors at the schools as clinicians. A partnership with Boston Public Schools and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC), PATHWAYS has served over 300 students at these partner schools over the past four years. Gemima St. Louis, PhD, the Executive Director of PATHWAYS, and Monica Roizner, EdD, Director of Clinical and Educational Supports at MSPCC, hope to expand the program to address needs at more schools and to include younger student populations. St. Louis stated that, “PATHWAYS offers systems-based interventions, involving not only the students but caregivers, guidance counselors, and teachers. Counseling services are more effective and beneficial to students when they are integrated and collaborative.” 

CHILDREN, FAMILIES & THE LAW

The Center of Excellence for Children, Families, and the Law (CECFL) launched a new group in February called Families Come Together to work with families in which the parents have separated and children are resisting contact with a parent for no significant clinical or legal reason. Robin Deutsch, PhD, Executive Director of CECFL, co-leads this new program to help reunify families with Robert Reifsnyder, EdD, from Massachusetts General Hospital. 

CECFL also provides a Certificate in Child and Family Forensics led by Dr. Deutsch which consists of online course modules and a required weekend-in-residence and has attracted notice abroad. Its students have included lawyers, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and other professionals from across the United States and Canada, and a recent Child Custody Evaluation class attracted two students from Singapore who recognized the tremendous value of this class and flew to Boston to attend the weekend-in-residence. In addition, because of a new Massachusetts Probate and Family court rule, Dr. Deutsch has added an additional class for Parenting Coordination, as well as a course in Advanced Parenting Coordination. Students include another professional from Singapore and two students from Australia.

“We are very proud that our community programs impact not only the mental wellbeing of individuals, but also the academic and professional growth of those working with populations in need of mental health services,” says Kinscherff, who adds, “That impact is felt statewide, nationally, and internationally.”


COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

Dr. Leon O. Brenner Center for Psychological Assessment & Consultation

  • Assessment Programs for Adults, including: 
    • SageMind
    • Individualized Adult Assessment
    • Adult Memory Clinic
  • Neurodevelopmental Assessment Service for Young Children (NYC)
  • Psychoeducational Assessment Service for Students (PASS)
  • Rapid Response Psychological Testing Service (RRPTS) for Children, Adolescents and Young Adults
  • NEW: Statewide Task Force on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

PATHWAYS PROGRAM

  • Partnerships with: 
    • West Roxbury Education Complex
    • (Urban Sciences Academy and
    • West Roxbury Academy)
    • Boston Public Schools & the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC)
    • Haitian Mental Health Network
    • NEW: John D. O’Bryant High School in Roxbury

Richard I. and Joan L. Freedman Center for Child and Family Development

  • INTERFACE Referral Service
  • Primary Project
  • Free Support Groups for New Parents
  • Community Workshops & Classes
  • NEW: State Commission on Behavioral Health Promotion and Upstream Prevention

Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law (CECFL)

  • Certificate in Child & Family Forensics
  • Child & Family Evaluation Services (CAFES) Including: 
    • Custody & Other Forensic Evaluations
    • High Conflict Parent Education Classes 
    • Consultation for any GAL or Custody Evaluation or Parent Coordinator
  • NEW: Families Come Together