Most mental health services focus either on adolescents and their families or adults. There is a gap in the transitioning of services when an adolescent ages out of their services. The authors of “Social Network Analysis of Child and Adult Interorganizational Connections” suggest that by increasing and coordinating connections among involved agencies, this gap can be bridged. In 2002, the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) funded five sites across the U.S. to build programs that offer comprehensive transition support for individuals with serious mental health conditions through the age of 25. The goal of this study was to determine whether there was an association between the efforts to increase coordination across systems that serve transition age youth and actual connections between child and adult systems in Clark County, Washington.

SNA data were collected through face-to-face interviews with each key informant. Representatives with extensive knowledge of their own organization and the knowledge of inter-organizational relationships between their organization and others were the key informants. Interviews were conducted before grant implementation (n=103) and again four years later (n=99). The nodes were the organizations. The links were the working relationships between the respondent’s organization and other network organizations which included (1) client receive referrals, (2) client sent referrals, (3) information exchange, and (4) client planning.

The study found significant changes in the nature of relationships between organizations over time. Overall density of transition service network remained stable while specific ways of connecting changed (as seen in Table 1). Some activities became more decentralized while others became more inclusive as evidenced by increase in size of the largest K-core. This was particularly true for receiving referrals (highest K-core proportion at wave 1 = 0.50 and wave 2 = 0.67). These changes reflected more direct contact between child and adult serving organizations. Overall, the separate adolescent and adult services were more integrated by the end of the grant period (seen in Figure 2 compared to Figure 1), demonstrating greater connection among networks which should be beneficial to youth in the transition age.

Funding to support organizations during this transition was found to be effective. The authors conclude that, “one of the least expensive ways to improve systems for this population is simply to increase communication across organizations that serve adolescents or adults, ensuring exchange of critical information about youth as they move from one type of service to the next, and to raise awareness of their unique needs” (Davis et al., 2012). SNA, specifically structural metrics, were integral in visualizing these data and interpreting the interconnectedness among these organizations to conclude that this funding was successful in its goal to provide better services for transition-aged youth.

References:

Davis, M., Koroloff, N., & Johnsen, M. (2012). Social network analysis of child and adult interorganizational connections. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 35(3), 265–272. https://doi.org/10.2975/35.3.2012.265.272

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