Safety Planning Juvenile Justice


This study will examine the feasibility and acceptability of a program designed to conduct safety planning with youth in the juvenile justice system who are at risk for a suicide attempt and/or self-injury and to increase the possibility of them receiving outpatient mental health treatment. After training staff in the intervention, the investigators will pilot test the safety planning intervention and gather information on how well it worked on reducing self-harm, getting families to follow up with referrals for mental health care, and how often they attend treatment.

Full Title of Study: “Screening and Brief Intervention for Suicidality and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury Among Youth in the Juvenile Justice System”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Treatment
    • Masking: Single (Outcomes Assessor)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: May 1, 2021

Detailed Description

The Juvenile Justice System (JJS) has not implemented any evidenced-based interventions that address suicidal behavior or nonsuicidal self-injury, hereafter referred collectively to as self-injury, with JJS-involved youth. This application proposes to test a scalable intervention, safety planning, that aims to reduce self-injury in adolescents involved in the JJS. Safety planning, which can be a stand-alone brief intervention, was cited as a best practice by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center/American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention. This study will have two phases. In Phase I, the investigators will conduct an open trial with 10 adolescents which will allow us to make any modifications necessary for using the protocol in a Probation Department. The investigators will then randomize 60 youth on Probation who screen positive for recent self-injury into standard care or the safety planning intervention. Counselors with community mental health experience embedded in Probation will conduct the intervention, consistent with the co-responder model found across JJS in the U.S. in which a Probation Officer works collaboratively with a mental health professional to coordinate care. In order to further conduct the study under conditions most relevant to a future implementation trial, the investigators will also employ a training approach that has been successfully implemented in a psychiatric hospital with Bachelors and Masters level staff. In Phase II, of the study, the investigators will: a) conduct qualitative interviews in Probation about attitudes toward the intervention as well as barriers to a future, larger implementation trial; and b) contract with the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice to conduct a Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) Mapping. The SIM is a conceptual framework to outline a series of "points of interception" along the JJS continuum in a state where screening and brief intervention may be implemented. In the Mapping, the investigators will examine the JJS continuum from arrest; to an initial hearing; to jail awaiting trial or adjudication; incarceration; to release or reentry; and finally, to community supervision. These data will provide a working framework to help assess current views within the statewide JJS as a starting point to proposing a future, larger trial. This research also has the potential to directly inform treatment practices in JJ settings and has significant implications for scalability and dissemination in order to build a stronger, more effective system of mental health/JJS collaboration around self-injury screening and intervention.


  • Behavioral: Safety Planning
    • Safety planning is an individual coping intervention to reduce suicidal risk in adolescents
  • Behavioral: Standard care
    • Standard care entails sending an adolescent for an emergency evaluation for suicidal risk in an Emergency Department

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: Safety Planning
    • This brief intervention, consists of an in-person and follow-up phone call that are based on cognitive behavioral principles designed to help identify a concrete list of coping strategies and social supports that youth can utilize preceding or during a crisis to lower imminent risk of nonsuicidal self-injury or suicidal behavior.
  • Active Comparator: Standard Care
    • If a teen has a positive screen for suicide risk, the Probation Officer completes a “secondary screener” built into the court screening instrument to determine whether there is concern of current and/or imminent risk. If a teen endorses nonsuicidal self-injury more than once in the prior year, then the Probation Officer asks about frequency and severity. If there is ongoing concern of risk for self-injurious behavior, then the Probation Officer arranges for a crisis evaluation in the Emergency Department. If the teen is not judged to be at imminent risk, the Probation Officer makes a referral back to the current treatment provider or to a community mental health clinic. In either case, the parents and youth receive a packet with mental health resources

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • Change in suicidal ideation
    • Time Frame: Past month ideation at 1 and 3 month follow-up points
    • Score on Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire; higher is worse; range 0 to180
  • Change in suicide attempts
    • Time Frame: 1 and 3 month follow-up points
    • Self report of suicide attempts; higher is worse

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • Legal guardian available to consent for juvenile's participation
  • Juvenile and parents are English or Spanish speaking
  • Juvenile flags in on the screening measure used in court with respect to suicidal ideation or nonsuicidal self-injury.

Exclusion Criteria

  • None

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 12 Years

Maximum Age: 17 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: No

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • Brown University
  • Collaborator
    • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor
  • Overall Contact(s)
    • Anthony Spirito, PhD, 401-444-1929,

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