Transforming Human Services in Johnson County

Transforming Human Services in Johnson County

Creating a sustainable program and working with partners is a lot like building a piece of furniture from the store IKEA, says Matt Enyart, who leads the Kansas Institute for Positive Behavior Support at the Life Span Institute 

“I tell a new team when we’re implementing with them, imagine we’ve gone to IKEA and you’ve picked out something you like,” he said.  “We’ve got this box, and we’re going to open it. In this task, our job at KIPBS is to make sure the engineering is right when putting it together. Their job is to make sure it fits what their needs are. It’s critical that we build it together, but they get to decide where they put the emphasis. Everything is data-based — we’re always collecting information. We focus on democratic principles and combine them with implementation science.”

Enyart has been busy building with employees of Johnson County, Kansas, who have been integrating KIPBS tools and strategies across the county’s Department of Corrections, Mental Health Center and Developmental Supports. The KIPBS work aims “to increase both quality of life and the likelihood that youth and adults with challenging behavior related to mental health, substance use, or intellectual or developmental disability will be able to remain successfully in their home, school, work and community settings.”

Johnson County has some unique features that make it a perfect place to pilot countywide positive behavior support. In most Kansas counties, independent nonprofits administer what are known as human services, such as mental health care or assistance for people with intellectual disabilities. However, all of the core human service departments in Johnson County are centrally administered by the county government. 

“This central oversight in Johnson County makes implementation of positive behavior support possible countywide,” said Enyart, an investigator with the Beach Center on Disability. “Nowhere else is someone using positive behavior supports across mental health, corrections, substance-use disorder treatment and intellectual-disability services.”

KIPBS trains county staff to acknowledge and reward positive conduct versus being reactive or punitive, according to the KU researcher. For instance, employees in Johnson County’s Department of Corrections Therapeutic Community now are “catching” clients exhibiting good behavior and rewarding them.

This month, county staff and Enyart celebrated the collaboration of the KIPBS and Johnson County. The first 10 employees to have completed Intensive PBS Certification graduated and were honored at a ceremony that highlighted individual experiences with the program.