UA student creates system to help youths in facilities

Patty Vaughan

A student in the nursing and computer-based honors program at the University is trying to implement a new system that could help reduce youth incidents in treatment facilities around the state.

Since August, Erin Jacobs, a sophomore majoring in nursing, has been working with the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, a federally mandated protection and advocacy program. ADAP is located on campus and has helped put this program in to full motion.

These facilities are required to give reports to ADAP describing the patients as well as any incident that has occurred.

“I created this database that houses all of the information for each patient and each incident, and from that what we’re starting to do now is run reports cross referencing those different circumstances to see if any of them are related,” Jacobs said.

For example, Jacobs said, boys in the facilities might be more apt to act out on weekends in the mornings compared to any other time.

“This is just to figure out trends and hopefully through that we can decrease the number of incidents either by correcting things that staff member may be doing wrong or by preventing certain trends that we see and trying to control those different circumstances that cause those incidents,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs has been working with Christa Hackney, a senior case advocate in ADAP. Hackney described the part she played in helping Jacobs start this system.

“Based on Erin’s semester contract goals, my role has been to provide weekly supervision and guidance in the development of this database and in the synthesis of data collected,” Hackney said. “Erin’s knowledge of specific database functions and her ability to modify the database to fit the unique needs of our agency has been invaluable.”

The program itself is easy to use for employees at facilities and ADAP. It uses the program Microsoft Access, which comes with Microsoft Works.

“Another idea behind this is that since it is a federally mandated program, they have different funding streams, and in order to continue to receive those funds, they have to give them any information that they ask for,” Jacobs said. “This will help them kind of be able to come up with that information a lot more quickly and a lot easier.”

Hackney said this system can really benefit the facilities and help control the incidents that occur.

“Having a mechanism to analyze data from incident reports will hopefully help to identify any systemic issues and trends regarding safety and treatment provision of youth in PRTFs in Alabama,” Hackney said. “A primary goal for ADAP is to ensure the safety of these residents and to protect them against abuse and neglect.”

Jacobs plans to enter her system into the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Conference competition on April 15. The project will be one of 260 projects that are scheduled to enter the competition.

“Students from all different disciplines enter projects under their colleges,” Jacobs said.

“These can be anything from what I’m doing to people doing laboratory research. It’s basically a way to present your research, kind of like you did at a science fair when you were in elementary school, with the hopes of being recognized.”

Along with submitting it to the competition, her advisor, Hackney will be attending the Training and Advocacy Support Center Annual Conference in June to present Jacob’s program.

Jacobs said she was excited to break into the field of psychology through a back door.

“I knew that I wanted to do something that had to do with any aspect of healthcare,” Jacobs said. “This one just seemed the most interesting to me, because psychiatrics isn’t really something that you can’t easily get your foot in to without having certain schooling or skills. This was an indirect way to kind of learn about the field of psychiatrics.”

After this new system is slowly being implemented into ADAP and facilities, Jacobs said she hopes the program can expand into other facilities.

Jacobs said she never imagined herself doing something like this program and hopes that other students can take a chance.

“The idea that no matter what your interests are, you can find a way to make an impact and don’t be afraid to thin outside of the box,” she said. “I never would have thought that I would be writing a database for anything that had to do with nursing. It’s just cool to see that you can do that especially when you’re on campus.”