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I-CARE: Feasibility, Acceptability, and Appropriateness of a Digital Health Intervention for Youth Experiencing Mental Health Boarding

J Adolesc Health. 2023 Mar 2:S1054-139X(23)00062-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2023.01.015. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: Youth with suicidality requiring psychiatric hospitalization may first experience boarding at acute care hospitals. Given infrequent provision of therapy during this period, we developed a modular digital intervention (I-CARE; Improving Care, Accelerating Recovery and Education) to facilitate delivery of evidence-based psychosocial skills by non-mental health clinicians. This pilot study describes changes in emotional distress, severity of illness, and readiness for engagement following I-CARE participation, and evaluates the feasibility, acceptability, and appropriateness of I-CARE.

METHODS: A mixed-methods approach was used to evaluate I-CARE, offered to youth 12-17 years from 11/21 to 06/22. Changes in emotional distress, severity of illness, and engagement readiness were evaluated using paired t-tests. Semistructured interviews with youth, caregivers, and clinicians were conducted concurrently with collection of validated implementation outcome measures. Quantitative measure results were linked to interview transcripts, which were analyzed thematically.

RESULTS: Twenty-four adolescents participated in I-CARE; median length of stay was 8 days (IQR:5-12 days). Emotional distress decreased significantly by 6.3 points (63-point scale) following participation (p = .02). The increase in engagement readiness and decrease in youth-reported illness severity were not statistically significant. Among 40 youth, caregivers, and clinicians who participated in the mixed-methods evaluation, 39 (97.5%) rated I-CARE as feasible, 36 (90.0%) as acceptable, and 31 (77.5%) as appropriate. Adolescents’ prior knowledge of psychosocial skills and clinicians’ competing demands were reported barriers.

DISCUSSION: I-CARE was feasible to implement and youth reported reduced levels of distress following participation. I-CARE has the potential to teach evidence-based psychosocial skills during boarding, which may provide a head-start on recovery before psychiatric hospitalization.

PMID:36870901 | DOI:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2023.01.015

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