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Boston University Researchers and Community Partners to Evaluate Police Response to Mental Health Incidents in Schools, Training for Parents with Intellectual Disabilities

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Boston, MA, January 15, 2019—Boston University School of Social Work’s Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health (CISWH) announces the funding and launch of two new research projects to improve the health and welfare of vulnerable youth populations.

“These projects exemplify CISWH’s goal to foster innovative collaborations between researchers and community partners in order to address health inequities,” said Jorge Delva, dean of BU’s School of Social Work, Center director, and Paul Farmer Professor. “Both projects have the potential to create positive, real-world change and decrease racial, economic, and education-related health inequities in the youth mental health and child welfare systems.”

Examining Police Response to Mental Health Incidents in Boston Public Schools

Led by Jennifer Greif Green, Ph.D., associate professor at Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, this project will examine the use of police services to respond to behavioral health incidents in Boston Public Schools (BPS). Using 911 call data and police incident reports, researchers will examine patterns of behavioral health-related police responses across BPS to evaluate the nature of concerns that lead to police involvement. The results will be presented to stakeholders at BPS and the Boston Police Department, with the goal of improving behavioral health services for Boston-area students.

“We are thankful for the support of the CISWH grant and the opportunity to move forward with this research, which we hope will provide information to support school and community-based providers in improving services for youth in Boston schools,” said Greif Green.

Collaborators include Melissa S. Morabito, Ph.D., associate professor at University of Massachusetts Lowell, and Jenna Savage, Ph.D., deputy director of the Boston Police Department’s Office of Research and Development. This project expands on existing work at CISWH, in partnership with Boston Medical Center Department of Psychiatry, focused on examining the relationship between mobile crisis utilization and school mental health services. Together, these projects aim to understand how schools are managing mental health crises and explore opportunities for addressing inequities in access and use of mental health services.

Building Evidence for a Preventive Parenting Intervention for Clients with Intellectual Disabilities

Led by Astraea Augsberger, Ph.D., assistant professor at Boston University School of Social Work, this project will evaluate the efficacy of Project IMPACT, an intensive in-home training program for parents with intellectual disabilities who are at risk of child removal due to allegations of child maltreatment. Children whose parents have intellectual disabilities are more likely to be placed in foster care, which is associated with long-term negative outcomes related to mental health, substance use, and education.

Project IMPACT (Improving Parenting Achievements Together), of Westchester County, NY, provides interventions that support parents and healthy child development, aiming to prevent children from entering or re-entering foster care. Project IMPACT social workers ensure that parents with intellectual disabilities can access a range of appropriate services. Project findings will be used to inform Project IMPACT’s services, while targeting the health inequities associated with race, class, and intellectual disability in the child welfare and mental health systems.

“Collaborating with CISWH offers a public health social work lens for child welfare research. It will also broaden our dissemination efforts to healthcare professionals who provide critical services to parents with intellectual disabilities at risk of family disruption,” said Augsberger.

Collaborators include Wendy Zeitlin, Ph.D, assistant professor at Montclair State University, Danielle Weisberg, director of child welfare services and director of the Children’s Advocacy Center at Westchester Institute for Human Development, and Trupti Rao, Psy.D, director of Project IMPACT.

The two projects were the recipients of CISWH’s 2018 Innovation Pilot Funding Grant, which awards $15,000 to Boston University faculty and doctoral students for cross-disciplinary projects focused on social work and health. Projects must include community partnerships, and focus on outcomes-oriented research, practice, education and training, and/or policy development and advocacy. The pilot project phase lasts for one year.


The Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health (CISWH) is dedicated to expanding the impact of social work in health care and public health in order to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations nationally and globally. CISWH seeks to improve outcomes, patient experience, and population health; reduce costs; and promote health equity and social justice. The Center supports social work leadership in health through cross-sector collaboration with public health, medicine, health economics, technology, and other relevant disciplines. The Center accomplishes its mission through research, community partnerships, policy development, and by providing technical assistance and educational opportunities. Learn more at

Media Contact:
Nilagia McCoy
Communications Manager, Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health
[email protected] | 617-358-1889