This initiative is a response to evidence-based research conducted in Denton County, Texas in 2008 and 2012 that revealed the need to address mental health issues as a significant factor affecting the health and well-being of children in this region. It involves DRC-based faculty and graduate student design researchers working with personnel from three major public service organizations in Denton County, Texas and one of its premier children’s healthcare providers.
The goal is to create a web-based solution that facilitates mental health awareness, information delivery, community building and data collection on behalf of four key stakeholder groups in Denton County: providers, caregivers, educators and young people.
This web-based Digital System of Care (DSC) will accomplish its goals by catalyzing and sustaining a community of care comprised of these groups by meeting the particular individuals within them. It will also function as a robust data collection tool that will aggregate and sort information provided by groups and group members. The parents, educators and young people who use this set of online resources will be able to educate themselves about mental and behavioral health issues, and gain access to highly localized and tailored information that will link them to appropriate providers and assist them with making informed mental health decisions. The providers and practitioners who use these resources will use the datasets the DSC generates to improve their individual and institutional abilities to effectively deal with the mental and behavioral health issues that are affecting select children and their families in Denton County.
Context/Need for This Online Resource
According to the Children’s Health Assessment & Planning Survey (CCHAPS) conducted by Cook Children’s Hospital of Fort Worth, Texas in Denton County in 2008 and again in 2012, children’s mental health issues are at the forefront of seven key areas of concern identified in this region as negatively affecting children and their families. More than 7% of people living in Denton County under the age of 18 suffer from mental health problems and disorders, including ADD/ADHD, developmental delays, learning disorders, anxiety disorder and autism/Asperger’s syndrome. Additionally, children’s mental health status has been shown to be a reliable indicator for the eventual onset of adult mental and behavioral disorders, functional disabilities and chronic health conditions. Families who have children with mental health disorders spend significantly more on health care than families who have children with physical disorders.
Our Faculty and Grad Students’ Response
Using a select array of theoretical approaches—grounded theory and activity theory among them—to frame our methods for designing and re-designing the interactive features and functionalities of this web-based resource and tool, we’ve developed a workable prototype. It will be tested and re-tested with the active participation of our project partners and many different types of potential users/audience members throughout 2013. The system will be implemented in iterative stages in the summer, fall and winter of 2013.