The Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition Program (BRYT) helps adolescents recover from serious emotional disorders. A brief episode of illness often results in a prolonged absence from school - disrupting studies, friendships and family life. For these students, re-entering high school comes with a high risks - 50% of students living with mental illness drop out of school. Their complex needs require much more support than most schools can provide.
Created by the Brookline (MA) Community Mental Health Center in 2004, BRYT helps students re-enter, re-integrate, and succeed in school. A Clinical Coordinator (social worker) and an academic tutor work closely with students and their families during crises and through the four to eight week re-entry process. Based in a special home room in the high school, the program provides academic, clinical and family support, including counseling, crisis intervention and home visits. At first, students spend most of their time in the home room; as their condition improves, class attendance increases. With this support, 90% of students succeed in resuming their studies and graduating with their peers. In addition, BRYT gives faculty the tools they need to understand and educate students with medical or behavioral health needs.
BRYT grew out of conversations between community based providers and schools looking for ways to address the needs of students with serious mental illness - to keep them safe and in school. Our success is changing the way people think about these teens, and shown how a program can change school culture so that it is more inclusive and welcoming to all students with serious emotional disorders. A literature review and conversations with experts in school mental health confirm that the BRYT program is unique based on its focus on integrating teens into the mainstream of school life.
Based on its originality, BRYT has received national recognition: in 2014, BRYT received the prestigious American Psychiatric Association’s Gold Achievement Award for national models of creative service delivery. http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.651105
DHHS Agency for Health Quality Research listed BRYT in its Innovation Exchange, a registry of promising practices in health care.
The Brookline Community Mental Health Center has provided leadership and technical support to other communities seeking to replicate the BRYT program model, including technical assistance, a monthly group consultation, and an annual conference. Due to our efforts, thirty communities in Massachusetts are replicating the BRYT program model in their high schools. These communities represent broad socio-economic and ethnic diversity and are located in both urban and suburban communities. Given that the entire school committee benefits from the program, BRYT now impacts more than 40,000 students and their families each year. To date, more than 1,500 teens and their families have been directly served by the BRYT program, 95% of whom graduated with their classes. Five communities (representing an additional 6,000 students) are actively planning to launch BRYT programs in the next academic years including two communities other states.
BRYT has received the generous support of several funders including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, the Klarman Family Foundation, and the MetroWest Health Foundation. This has enabled a variety of activities including program dissemination, technical support and training, program evaluation, and development of a program manual. Funding for each of the school-based programs has been provided by the school district in which it is located, demonstrating the long-term viability of the model. Among schools that have developed BRYT programs, some started with grant funding and others with “soft” money. In all cases, the schools have decided to allocate funds to make it a regular part of the school district’s operating budget. This has occurred even during the recent recession when other school programs were being shuttered, a testament to the need for and the dramatic impact of the program.
The BRYT program model has been successfully replicated by many school districts. Since 2006, when the program model was introduced into a second school district, the pace of replication has steadily increased. By 2012, twelve schools had started transition programs; this number grew to thirty schools in 2015. The enrollment of these schools is 40,000 students – 15% of the total high school population in Massachusetts! More than 1,500 teens and their families have been directly served by the BRYT program. Six communities, including two from other states, are actively planning to launch BRYT programs in the next academic year. We have developed a manual to help schools replicate the program, and designed a strategic plan for continued regional and national replication, described in the Stanford Social Innovation Review: http://www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/a_national_growth_plan_rooted_in_one_states_success
Evaluation has always been an important part of the BRYT program. Staff track each student’s clinical and academic status, using standarized measures including the well-normed Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS). BRYT’s positive outcomes were published in 2006 in Psychiatric Services. We are currently conducting a formal, large scale, two year (2013-2015) evaluation of the program model in collaboration with staff of the Center for Health and Healthcare in Schools at George Washington University. This study compares outcomes of students in high schools with BRYT transition programs with that of outcomes of students in schools that provide “usual care” (i.e. no transition program). Initial data from year 1 shows a large impact on student functioning: average CAFAS score improved significantly; relapse rates were less than 10%, and over 90% of students were able to graduate on schedule with their peers.