Mental Health Services and Policy Program

The mission of the Mental Health Services & Policy Program (MHSPP) is to provide research, evaluation, outcomes management, technical assistance and training that helps improve the lives of individuals and families that receive publicly funded mental health services.

Projects & Partners

llinois Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) (PI: Eugene Griffin, PhD)

MHSPP and DCFS have enjoyed nearly a decade-long partnership focused on addressing the needs of children and families through training, evaluation, and technical assistance. Relying upon the Total Clinical Outcomes Management model, MHSPP has helped the Department to implement decision support strategies as well as approaches to measuring outcomes that are strengths-based, consensus-driven, and contextually sensitive. Current MHSPP/DCFS projects include ongoing evaluation of the Integrated Assessment, System of Care, Specialized Foster Care and Child and Youth Investment Team programs, as well as web-based monitoring of residential placements. More recently, as data have accumulated on longitudinal trajectories of progress over time, our data analyses address questions by looking across these programs for patterns and changes. Other innovative work includes the Statewide Provider Database and geomapping websites, providing easy access to geographically organized information on community resources, performance based contracting in residential treatment, and consultation on the development of aftercare programming for youth returning from stays in the juvenile justice system.

Mental Health Juvenile Justice Initiative (PI: Tracy Fehrenbach, PhD)

The Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health directs the Mental Health Juvenile Justice (MHJJ) Initiative, a program that funds local mental health providers in every county that has a juvenile detention center to provide liaisons to the court in order to: (1) identify those youth in the juvenile justice system who have a major mental illness, (2) develop a community-based treatment plan for those youth and (3) establish the necessary community support for that youth and family. MHSPP has evaluated the program since its inception in 2000 and has been able to demonstrate that mentally ill youth can be identified in the juvenile justice system and that, when treated in the community, their clinical condition improves, their school attendance increases and their re-arrest rate declines.

Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition (PI: Cassandra Kisiel, PhD)

Dr. Kisiel serves as the Clinical Director of ICTC, whose members represent over 50 public and private organizations in Illinois. The goal of this Coalition is to take a public health approach to the evolving understanding of the nature and impact of childhood trauma and to expedite the integration of this wisdom into public awareness and the array of systems that serve children and families in Illinois. Current projects include research on a possible developmental trauma diagnosis for DSM-V and training various groups on brain development and child trauma.

The Center for Child Trauma Assessment and Service Planning of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (PI: Cassandra Kisiel, PhD, Gene Griffin, JD, PhD, and Tracy Fehrenbach, PhD)

The Center for Child Trauma Assessment and Service Planning (CCTASP) at Northwestern University Medical School is a University-based Treatment Services and Adaptation Center of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). Our Center is focused on the development and dissemination of assessment approaches and the application of evidence-based trauma intervention approaches for various providers within public sector service settings. Our efforts are targeted for children and adolescents with complex trauma and for providers who serve these youth within child welfare, mental health, juvenile justice and educational settings. CCTASP works both within Illinois and across several other states and NCTSN centers. The Center specializes in assessment, treatment planning, and the use of data-driven approaches to service delivery. The Center emphasizes the use the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) – a trauma-focused comprehensive assessment, treatment, service planning, and outcomes evaluation tool – in conjunction with other data collection strategies. CCTASP also highlights a statewide provider database as a tool for translating CANS data into trauma-informed and strengths-based service planning. The assessment-based approach can be used to develop trauma-informed treatment-planning guidelines to assist practitioners with critical decision-making, matching treatments with specific populations, sequencing treatments based on identified needs and strengths, and determining whether treatment plans are effective.

MacArthur Foundation, Models for Change (Gene Griffin, JD, PhD)

Illinois participates in the MacArthur Foundation, Models for Change, juvenile justice programs. As part of the workforce development group, Dr. Griffin and others from Illinois helped to develop a curriculum for juvenile justice line staff. The curriculum focuses on an understanding of adolescent development, mental health, and trauma issues. These concepts are then applied to working with youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system. Dr. Griffin is involved in training juvenile justice staff in Illinois and in training trainers on this curriculum in other states.

Evaluation of Youth Network Council’s Trauma Informed Youth Services Initiative (PI: Tracy Fehrenbach, PhD)

With funding from the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Youth Network Council has established a Trauma Informed Youth Services Initiative. The overarching goal of the initiative is to incorporate trauma-informed practices and policies into community-based youth serving agencies in Illinois to improve outcomes for young people who are experiencing traumatic stress. MHSPP is directing the design, oversight and implementation of the local outcome evaluation for this initiative. Broadly, the evaluation will assess the impact of implementing trauma-informed services with underserved youth in urban, suburban, and rural settings in Illinois by focusing on a wide range of indicators including youth’s behavioral and mental health needs and strengths, trauma-related symptoms and risk behaviors including delinquent behaviors that lead to legal sanctions.


Chicago Public Schools (PI: Gene Griffin, JD, PhD)
MHSPP worked with Chicago Public Schools as they prepared to meet federal requirements for Response to Interventions, a paradigm for diagnosing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities. Initiatives included the development of a three tiered approach to dealing with behavioral health issues, including trauma, as part of a general education program. MHSPP, along with experts from Children’s Memorial Hospital, consulted on evidence-based assessment and intervention programs.


Inger Burnett-Ziegler PhD
Elizabeth Durkin, PhD
Tracy Fehrenbach, PhD
Debra Ferguson, PhD (adjunct)
Gene Griffin, JD, PhD (Associate Director) 
Mark Holzberg PhD                 
Neil Jordan, PhD (Director)
Chris Kelsey, MS (on leave)
Cassie Kiesiel, PhD
John Lyons, PhD (adjunct)
Jielai Ma PhD                              
Zoran Martinovich, PhD
Gary McClelland, PhD
YongJoo Rhee, DrPH  (adjunct)
Mary Spooner PhD   (adjunct)                
Dana Weiner, PhD

Contact Us

Contact Neil Jordan, PhD, Director, or Eugene Griffin, PhD, JD, Associate Director of Mental Health Services and Public Policy for more information.

Neil Jordan, PhD
Eugene Griffin, PhD, JD