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RayThe prevalence of mental illness in America’s correctional population is now at a crisis level. Dana DeHart, Assistant Dean of Research at UofSC’s College of Social Work, is taking concrete action to mitigate those issues.

DeHart came to the Center with a deep well of research that could be used to educate correctional officers (COs) and give them specific actions to better address mental illness in their facilities. It fell to the Center to transform the raw research into a training suite that could be used in communities across the United States.

“I sought out services of The Center for Child & Family Studies based on my past experiences with the media team,” DeHart says. “CCFS does an excellent job working with researchers and other stakeholders to translate evidence-based findings into learning objectives, curricula, and professional media products.”

The Instructional Design and Production team took her research and refracted it into a rich array of materials that add up to a comprehensive, community-based training. By working with experts in the social work field in Idaho and Washington State, the team created scenarios and stories that are realistic and intriguing to COs.

The training has twenty modules and can be offered in its entirety or in smaller selections, as needed. All modules have a facilitator’s manual appropriate for a trainer of any level of experience and a coordinated PowerPoint deck that enhances learning. Many modules have short, highly focused video clips of a subject matter expert offering insights, which were shot and edited in-house at the Center. There are also scenarios illustrated by local artist Patrick Fowler and animated by the Center. These animations plunge learners into a challenging situation and help them practice decision-making in a safe environment.

And in an extraordinary boon, the training is free to access and use and is designed to be offered in the community at large. Funded by the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, it’s part of a multiyear project titled “Higher Education Partnership on Correctional Mental Health.”

“This project was outstanding to work on,” says project instructional designer Claire Houle. “To use such fascinating information and make it engaging and accessible for community members to use to improve community mental health and connection—well, that is the heart of our mission. I was proud to have been a part of it.”

Most recently, the training was piloted on October 3rd and 4th at the South Carolina Department of Corrections. The pilot was very well-received by trainees and SCDC training staff. Assessment showed significant increase in knowledge about trauma and trauma-informed correctional practice, which were two of the modules offered those days. Also, the module offered on self-care for corrections officers was rated highly. Center staff are excited and hopeful as the training makes its way into the correctional community.

[Pictured: Raymond Smith, PhD candidate, is featured as an expert in the training.]

See the entire training here, including a promotional video, and share it in your community.