The Lincy Institute

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Social Service

The Lincy Institute conducts and supports applied research that leads to improvements in many key community well-being indicators. The Social Service Sector supports the mission of The Lincy Institute by forging and strengthening university community collaborations that aim to build the capacity of local social service entities. Social service capacity building is pursued by initiating and convening partnerships, using Lincy capacity to assist nonprofits in leveraging their existing resources to attract federal funding, brokering data sharing agreements, promoting evidence-based solutions, and advancing programming advocacy. Ultimately the Social Service Sector partners with local service providers to investigate "what will work" as we endeavor to address some of the most pressing community issues.

Current Projects

Mental and Behavioral Health Coalition

The critical need for improving mental and behavioral health services in Nevada is a shared concern for the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Working collaboratively with the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DBPH), the major nonprofit and for profit community mental health organizations, and multiple mental and behavioral health stakeholder groups, UNLV is helping to address workforce shortage issues. The university is home to seven educational programs that provide training for mental and behavioral health professions – Psychology, Counselor Education, Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, Nursing, Educational Psychology, and Addictions and Human Services. These programs have joined forces to establish a Coalition striving to achieve complementary goals of improving the mental health workforce in Nevada. Working closely with its community partners, the UNLV Mental and Behavioral Health Coalition is striving to eliminate barriers to students entering and graduating from degree programs that prepare them for careers in mental and behavioral health. The Coalition is also focusing on implementing strategies that allow degreed mental health professionals to enter into the workforce more quickly and sustain their service and work in the state of Nevada. To guide Coalition efforts, seven focus areas have been identified: student recruitment, student graduation, workforce entry, workforce retention, communication and promotion of mental health careers, engagement of community mental and behavioral health professionals, and expansion and sustainability of coalition efforts.

The Coalition looks to increase student learning and training in high-need mental health service areas, such as practicing in integrated health care settings and providing services to children, youth, and their families. Additionally, the opening of UNLV School of Medicine will provide new and exciting opportunities for medical and mental health students to share educational and practice experiences. All of these initiatives also lend themselves to the possibilities for enhanced and increased collaboration between UNLV and community partners.

Social Service Collaborative

The Social Service Collaborative involves key leaders from the university and the local community who represent the interests of vulnerable children, adults, and families. The collaborative serves in an advisory capacity to The Lincy Institute by identifying and prioritizing the most pressing social issues impacting our community. The Social Service Collaborative devises strategies for engaging local nonprofits in an effort to enhance the existing work that they do on behalf of those community members who require social services. The Collaborative pinpoints and recommends a series of short-term, practical initiatives that are supported by The Lincy Institute with the goal of leveraging larger and more sustainable projects on behalf of the local community.

Community Capacity-Building Planning Awards

In keeping with its mission and goals, The Lincy Institute sought to identify and select planning projects that addressed pressing issues related to health, education, and social services. While these projects may have national and global relevance, they are specifically applicable to local issues and needs. Planning awards have been awarded to two organizations, United Way of Southern Nevada and Foundation for Recovery. The projects and the work conducted by the United Way of Southern Nevada and the Foundation for Recovery drive intellectual discoveries, and build the capacity of local non-profits and support community efforts in addressing local mental health and education challenges. View the award announcement.

To view more on the project selection process, view the Call for Collaborations page.

Below is a brief abstract of each of the planning projects, and contact information:

Peer Certification Planning Project

Foundation for Recovery

The purpose of the Peer Certification Planning Project is to conduct the research and planning required to construct, adopt, and begin to implement a statewide policy for the training, certification and utilization of Peer Recovery Support Specialists in the areas of mental health and substance abuse. With the implementation of such a policy change, Nevada will advance its goal of having sustainable, peer-driven Recovery Oriented System of Care (ROSC) that increases recovery and whole health outcomes through statewide public-private partnerships. Partners in this planning process include both nonprofit community organizations and state agencies.

Ms. Louise Torres

Community Impact Project (LVHCC)

United Way of Southern Nevada

Academic achievement in Nevada ranks among the lowest in the nation. The Community Impact Project seeks to develop collaborative action among schools, community organizations, and parents to study the barriers that prevent children from attaining the education they deserve. To identify these barriers and develop holistic interventions, the Community Impact Project will operate collaboratively with nine community organizations, the university, and school officials, to foster high quality community engagement in three urban public schools. The data obtained will be applied to the Downtown Archives demonstration project, which will be used as a test model to seek external funding.


Mr. Nelson Araujo

Mr. Terri Janison

Data Mining and Assessment Projects

Data mining and community needs assessments in the social service sector focus on major areas of well-being that address problems impacting children, adults, and families. Of particular interest are projects that address the needs of vulnerable or underserved populations. The purpose of the needs assessments as they relate to the Social Service Sector is to advance knowledge of particular social problems using multi-causal models. In many instances the assessments identify the efforts that are currently in place locally that aim to address identified problems. Additionally, based on national comparisons, indicators of success and best practice standards, the needs assessment provide results that define current service gaps. With the needs assessments interventions, policies, research, or programming directions that produce sound outcomes and demonstrate improved well-being are sought. Below are descriptions of two data mining and assessment projects currently underway.

Health and Human Services Workforce Development/Capacity Needs Assessment

This assessment study is led by Dr. Sandra Owens of the UNLV School of Social Work in collaboration with the UNLV Canon Survey Center under the directorship of Pam Gallion. There are three components to the assessment: (1) Household Assessment- a survey of households to determine prevalence of mental health conditions; (2) Service Utilization Assessment – interviews with individuals who are currently utilizing mental health services locally in Clark County; and a (3) Workforce Assessment- an examination of the mental and behavioral workforce’s skills, competency, professional background, and preparation. Community stakeholders comprise a Mental/Behavioral Health Workforce Assessment Advisory Committee to support and guide this assessment project.

Housing, Shelter Care, and Homelessness: Strengthening the Community through Planned Collaboration

A capacity report was developed as a result of a study undertaken in Clark County, Nevada, 2011–2012. The primary purpose of the study was to gather information about the needs of local nonprofit agencies who are working in the areas of homelessness, housing, shelter care, and services to vulnerable children and families. A secondary purpose of the study was to analyze the capacity of the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) to assist local nonprofits in capacity building and help them to achieve their service goals. The study ascertained the needs of the nonprofits and through an analysis of UNLV’s past and current engagement with the community, provided an analysis of "fit" and recommendations for building a community-university partnership to better address the needs of some of the most vulnerable citizens in the community. A mixed-method study revealed complementary interests of more than 21 UNLV departments and units and 24 local nonprofit organizations who work in the area of housing, economic development, shelter care, and homelessness. A five-point recommendation plan was provided with the purpose of linking faculty and the community to build the capacity of nonprofits as they work to address the needs of some of Nevada’s most vulnerable citizens. Please refer to Resources for more information about the 2012 capacity report.

Determined, Responsible, Empowered Adolescents Mentoring Relationships (DREAMR)

The purpose of this federally-funded project is to reduce pregnancy among foster youth. The project is lead by the Clark County Department of Family Services and the local community partners include: Big Brothers Big Sisters, SAFY, Olive Crest, S.P.I.R.I.T. and the Southern Nevada Health District. The Lincy Institute supports the research and evaluation work that is being conducted in connection with the DREAMR project.

The purpose of the research that supports the project is to determine the effectiveness of a service approach that has been designed to prevent foster youth pregnancy. Additionally, the study will measure the extent to which foster youth are able to develop healthy, positive and supportive relationships with adults. A total of 400 foster youth will be studied over the course of the five-year demonstration project. The research team will use a randomized control group experimental design to evaluate the multifaceted approach to reducing pregnancy and increasing protective factors.

Project participants and their caregivers and workers will be exposed to a year-long service approach consisting of the following components: (1) a peer mentor; (2) pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease prevention courses; (3) training for foster parents and relative caregivers about increasing their ability to talk to youth about how to create healthy relationships with positive and supportive people and how to avoid pregnancy; (4) training for workers about increasing their ability to work with youth so that they are able to create healthy relationships with positive and supportive people; (5) a casework approach called 3-5-7 that will be led by the youths' workers and is designed to help foster youth think about their past and become emotionally stronger by sorting out their experiences; and (6) a "smart phone" that will be issued to youth so that they can keep track of the various program components that they are engaged in and that enables them to stay in communication with their mentor, workers, and service providers.

Preliminary findings for Year One planning and pilot research have been analyzed and the DREAMR Project began Year Two on October 1, 2012.

Establishing Safety, Permanency, and Well-being for Children Residing in Relative Care: A Data Diffusion Plan

The Establishing Safety, Permanency, and Well-being for Children Residing in Relative Care: A Data Diffusion Plan is a research dissemination project funded by the Silberman Fund, a private philanthropic foundation administered by the New York Community Trust. The two-year project has produced a series of publications that translate empirically validated findings of research about kinship care. The publications describe various intervention, practice and policy strategies useful in supporting kinship caregivers with the aim of improving the outcomes for the children in their care. Please refer to Resources for more information on the kinship dataset.


General Information Resources

Poverty and Education: Finding the Way Forward

Poverty Epidemic in Las Vegas

Social Services Indicator Briefing

Moving the Needle: Advancing Community Well-being through Partnership Leveraging

2012 CAPACITY REPORT - Housing, Shelter Care, and Homelessness: Strengthening the Community through Planned Collaboration

Our Community: How are the Children?

The journey to adopt a child who has special needs: Parents' perspectives

Child Abuse and Neglect in Nevada

Parental Incarceration and Kinship Care: Caregiver Experiences, Child Well-Being, and Permanency Intentions

Predicting Permanency Intentions Among Kinship Caregivers

Engaging and Supporting Kinship Caregivers: An Effective Peer-to-Peer Approach

Center for the Study of Social Policy promotes public policies that strengthen families and protect and lift children from poverty.

Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago has, since its inception in 1985 as a research and policy center, focused on a mission of improving the well-being of children and youth, families, and their communities. They do this through policy research—by developing and testing new ideas, generating and analyzing information, and examining policies, programs, and practices across a wide range of service systems and organizations.

Child Welfare Information Gateway promotes the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and families by connecting child welfare, adoption, and related professionals as well as the general public to information, resources, and tools covering topics on child welfare, child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care, adoption, and more. A service of the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, they provide access to print and electronic publications, websites, databases, and online learning tools for improving child welfare practice, including resources that can be shared with families.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than 4 million Americans in service through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and the Social Innovation Fund, and leads President Obama's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. was developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, in partnership with issue experts from across the country, through a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. An online set of tools for focusing policy strategies on achieving measurable results for kids and families. This website provides research-based policy strategies shown to achieve the targeted results.

Strengthening Families is a research-based, cost-effective strategy to increase family strengths, enhance child development and reduce child abuse and neglect. It focuses on building five Protective Factors that also promote healthy outcomes.

Grant Preparation Sources


Policy Briefs

How are the Children: Challenges and Opportunities in Improving Children's Mental Health (2013, October)

Time to Talk: The Mental Health of Adults in Nevada (2014, March)

Scholarly Work

Read more about Dr. Ramona Denby's research and professional accomplishments.