LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Mental Health Therapy for Justice-Involved

Friends Outside in Los Angeles County (FOLA) will implement Project Step Ahead (PSA) to address the gap in accessible mental health services for justice-involved persons. PSA will provide individual, couples, and family therapy to formerly incarcerated individuals and their families. The objectives are to improve the mental health of the target population and their families resulting in improved family and social bonds, reduced stigma about accessing mental health services, and reduced employment-related stressors.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Opportunities for People Who Have Been Incarcerated

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

San Gabriel Valley

South LA

South Bay

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Mental health care for justice-involved individuals is an under-addressed, emergent need. An estimated 23% has at least one unaddressed mental health need and their children are at risk of poor mental health outcomes (CCJBH,2018, Cochran et al.,2018). Most of FOLA's clients are persons-of-color, unemployed, and living at or below poverty. Many lack access to healthcare which prevents them from receiving mental health services. Even if accessible, few mental health practitioners are familiar with the unique mental health needs of the re-entry community and their families. Services are often limited to individual therapy even though couples and family therapy are associated with improved mental health within families and reduced recidivism (Spjeldnes et al.,2012 & Fahmy,2021)(Cochran et al., 2018). Finally, by addressing their mental health needs, re-entry job-seekers are more likely to obtain and retain employment, resulting in increased financial stability for them and their families.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

FOLA will provide individual, couples and family therapy for persons enrolled in its programs, and their families, through its partner Silegra. The project will begin with a training for FOLA staff by Silegra during which the project and processes will be discussed. FOLA staff will be trained to talk about the topic of mental health with their participants and will learn how to make referrals so as to ensure the participant's sense of safety. Silegra's licensed therapists will receive referrals from FOLA staff and contact participants to arrange for a first meeting during which the participant's needs and hopes for therapy will be discussed. A pre-evaluation will be conducted. In an effort to make therapy as accessible as possible, sessions will be conducted in the evening or on Saturday at a FOLA office or via Zoom based on the participants' individual preferences. The average number of sessions provided per participant will be 10 - 12, based on individual needs and the therapist's clinical judgment, and will conclude with a post-evaluation. Participants who complete 5 sessions will receive a $50 gift card; those who complete 10 sessions will also receive a $100 gift card. In an effort to educate the community about the mental health needs of the re-entry population and their families, FOLA will host quarterly public workshops which feature subject matter experts on topics such as the mental health stressors of the re-entry population and their families.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Vision for success/intended impact: (1) a minimum of 25 justice-impacted individuals and their families will receive mental health therapy. 75% (19) of these individuals will report an improvement in their mental health; (2) increased knowledge amongst practitioners and service providers about the mental health needs of this target group. Plans for scaling: Historically, FOLA has assisted participants with their mental health needs by linking them to outside services. Challenges include that participants do not pursue services because of the stigma associated with the services, unaffordable services, mistrust/not knowing the service provider, and inconvenient service locations. PSA will bring services in-house and lay a foundation to address participants' mental health needs through an internal network. Establishing a history of providing services will open the door for FOLA to pursue other funding opportunities so it can include mental health services in future programs.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

The project team will measure impact as follows: Therapists will administer individual pre-/post-evaluations with participants, assessing for changes in the participant's use of adaptive coping skills, increased perception of social support, improved familial/social relationships, and attitude about therapy. The therapists will analyze the quantitative data on a quarterly basis to measure the impact of the intervention, the results of which will be used as needed to modify the service delivery. Focus groups conducted at the midpoint and end of the project will yield qualitative data that will be used to understand the factors that contributed to the participants' success. Surveys conducted at the beginning and end of each workshop will determine changes in service providers' knowledge about the mental health needs of the target group. The project team will summarize the results in a written report and present the information to FOLA's staff for integration into future programs.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 25

Indirect Impact: 500