Funded Projects 

SAMHSA funded Youth Mental Health First Aid Training Grant

For this project, CRT will provide Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training to organizations serving high-risk youth located in the Chicago Metropolitan area in predominantly low-income, minority communities facing disparities in mental health identification and treatment.  The target training population for the project works in a range of fields that have frequent contact with youth who are at significant risk of developing mental health disorders, including child protective agencies, faith-based organizations, gang violence prevention groups, youth mentoring agencies, family support/teen parenting programs, schools and educational institutions, domestic violence shelters, juvenile and family court, medical providers, and military-serving organizations.  The high-risk youth served by these agencies include youth exposed to community violence; youth from homes with domestic violence; youth who have experienced child maltreatment; youth in foster care; children of military service members; and youth who have experienced prenatal substance exposure. Many youth fall into several of these risk categories simultaneously, and interface with multiple professionals and paraprofessionals. The youth in these high-risk groups have well-documented, heightened rates of serious mental health disorders and emotional disturbance. The overarching purpose of this project is to increase both the identification of mental health disorders and the referral of high-risk youth to appropriate services throughout the Chicago Metropolitan area.  This project will provide valuable training to participants on recognizing the symptoms of common mental illnesses and substance use disorders, strategies to de-escalate crisis situations safely, and how to initiate timely referrals to mental health and substance abuse resources available in the community. This information is vital for the many front-line disciplines that interact with youth exhibiting untreated mental health disorders and crises on a daily basis.


Co-Project Directors
Linda Schwartz, Ph.D.
Samantha Orbach, Psy.D.

YMHFA Trainers
Wendy Kovacs, Ph.D., LMFT
Anne Gamache, LCPC, CADC

Outreach Coordinator
Samantha Orbach, Psy.D.

Project Evaluator
Anne Wells, Ph.D.

SAMHSA funded Project LAUNCH-Illinois Southland

Project LAUNCH-Illinois Southland (PL-IS) is a collaboration between Children’s Research Triangle (CRT) and the Partnership for Resilience (PfR) to promote the wellness of young children by enhancing and expanding available services in Chicago’s Southland. PL-IS will work with children ages 0-8 and their parents from Chicago’s Southland, the suburban region directly south and southwest of Chicago. PL-IS emerges from the existing work of the PfR, which is a collaboration of 42 schools in nine Southland school districts. The shared goals of integrating health, mental health, and education systems through the creation of sustainable community partnerships, education and training programs, and trauma-informed early childhood mental health practices guides PL-IS. PL-IS will expand the existing partnership formed by PfR to develop a formal Young Child Wellness Council (YCWC). The YCWC’s purpose is to identify community needs as they align with project goals/objectives and to develop and implement a strategic plan to meet program goals. PL-IS will address the following:

·       systems development to support a community infrastructure capable of meeting the vast needs of the Southland to promote the health and well-being of young children and their families;

·       routine screening for developmental, medical, social-emotional issues, and trauma exposure, and accessible assessment for these issues;

·       behavioral health integration with primary care because primary care providers maintain ongoing contact with families and are in an ideal position to identify risks and make referrals, improving outcomes;

·       early childhood mental health consultation, which is critical to helping educational and early care settings understand the needs of young children and their families;

·       family strengthening and training in which the goal will be to work with existing agencies to determine strategies to increase capacity to serve young children and parents;

·       promotion and public awareness by developing a comprehensive campaign that targets the general public and community agencies.


Co-Project Directors
Emily Odiase, MSW
Anne Wells, Ph.D.

Southland Initiative Project Coordinator
Donzell Franklin, MA

Project Evaluator
Cassandra Boyd, MSW

Communications Coordinator
Darcy DeWolfe, BA

Family Navigator Specialist
Nekika Skinner, BS

Therapist/Mental Health Consultant
Rose Mesick, LCPC
Cheria Randle, M.A.

Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant
Karen Parker

Evaluation Administrator
Gabriell Carpenter, BS

SAMHSA funded Early Mental Health Program

The Early Mental Health Program (EMHP) is a multicomponent treatment program providing comprehensive services to children ages 0-12 with, and at risk for, significant mental health challenges. The program expands upon CRT’s existing services, and provides wrap-around services including screening, psychological evaluation, therapy, parent and community training, and consultation. Services are offered both at CRT’s downtown clinic and at our community partner sites around the Chicago Metropolitan Area. All children ages 0 to 12 and their families who come to CRT undergo an initial screening to identify risk factors for mental health challenges. Those identified as at-risk for or having mental health challenges are referred to psychological evaluation and/or therapy services with CRT clinicians. Therapy services at the EMHP will include Modular Approach to Therapy for Children with Anxiety, Depression, Trauma or Conduct Problems (MATCH-ADTC), Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), Child Parent Psychotherapy (CPP), Parents and Children Together (PACT) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). Prevention is another critical component to decreasing risk factors associated with significant mental health challenges To this end, the EMHP offers Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) at community sites for parents of children ages 0 to 12. Additionally, community professionals who work with children will receive training on diagnostic and treatment issues related to significant mental health challenges, and community agencies will receive ongoing early childhood consultation services from program staff. Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, CRT looks forward to serving at least 2,970 people through the EMHP over the next five years.


Project Director
Stefanie Ward, LMFT

Project Evaluator
Anne M. Wells, PhD

Tina Nguyen, MD

Monica Dirr, LCSW
Lorie Enlow, LMFT
Venezah St. Louis, MSW

Stephanie Kohlman, PsyD

Case Manager
Emily Odiase, MSW

Training Director
Samantha Orbach, PsyD

Research Assistant
Devanshi Shah, MPH

Cook County Justice Advisory Council funded Gun Violence Prevention Program

The Justice Advisory Council of Cook County granted Children's Research Triangle a three-year grant for Youth Moving in New Directions (Youth MIND), a Trauma-Informed Schools Gun Violence Prevention Program. The program aims to reduce the risk of violence among students at 10 schools on Chicago’s South and West sides and near suburban communities. All of the Chicago schools served by Youth MIND are in the 15 community areas identified by the Chicago mayor’s office as being at higher risk of violence than the rest of the city, experiencing more than 50% of the serious victimizations in Chicago while making up only 30% of the total population. Youth MIND, is a school-based gun and other violence prevention and intervention program, using a trauma-informed schools framework and evidenced-based treatments to address the impact of childhood exposure to violence and trauma. Youth MIND serves students, their families, school personnel and other service providers working within each school. Youth MIND uses a 3-tiered approach to co-locate services within our 10 partner schools to create system-wide changes in their approach to prevention and intervention in youth violence, including gun violence. This program establishes school-based Behavioral Health Teams, conducts Trauma Informed Organizational Assessments, and develops universal screening and prevention and crisis management initiatives including the implementation of group, individual and family evidence-based therapy. Youth MIND also provides trauma and mental health–related trainings and intensive consultation for school personnel to increase knowledge and skills necessary for reducing violence among students, while decreasing secondary traumatic stress and burnout.

Youth MIND Schools:

 Chicago West Side/Near Suburbs

Al Raby High School (East Garfield Park)

Collins Academy High School (North Lawndale)

John Hay Community Academy (Austin)

 Chicago South Side/Near Suburbs

Englewood STEM High School (Englewood)

Fort Dearborn Elementary School (Auburn Gresham)

Johnson College Prep High School (Englewood)

The Montessori School of Englewood (Englewood)

Wendell Smith Elementary School (Roseland-Pullman)

Lincoln Elementary School (Dolton)

Roosevelt Elementary School (Dolton)

Project Team:

Project Director, Tracey Bell-Hodgman, LCSW

Project Coordinator, Venezah St. Louis, LCSW

Clinical Supervisor, Stefanie Ward, LMFT

Therapists: Gauri Goswami, LCSW

Training Coordinator: Samantha Orbach, PsyD

Trainer: Victoria Albarracin, MA

Lead Evaluator, Cassandra Boyd, MSW