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Released September 25, 2003


HATTIESBURG - A grant from the State Department of Mental Health (DMH) is allowing a Southern Miss professor to apply business management principals to a network of interagency teams created to assist children with emotional disorders.

Dr. Sharon Topping, a professor of management at Southern Miss, will use the approximately $64,000 grant to study the evolution of Multi-Disciplinary Assessment and Planning teams (MAP teams) in several Mississippi counties.

Topping is seeking to show why some how the MAP teams, which are made up of multiple community agencies working together, grow and serve their communities over time. She is also interested in documenting why some of the teams succeed while others fail. In doing so, she is using methods typically associated with the study of people and groups working together in a business management context.

"A lot of the mental health care literature today is calling for the use of business literature in looking at how they're doing things," Topping said.

The first MAP teams were formed in 1996, and currently there are MAP teams operating in 28 Mississippi counties. The DMH's ultimate goal is to have teams in all 82 Mississippi counties.

The teams were formed to work with children who have Severe Emotional Disorder (SED) problems. SED is a designation that can cover a range of emotionally challenging conditions. No matter what the problem, the MAP teams' goal is to bring local community agencies together to work with the affected child and the child's family in finding treatment. Ideally, these treatment options provide an effective alternative to hospitalization.

Organizations typically included in the composition of a MAP team include local mental health agencies, schools, police departments, juvenile justice courts, pastors, Department of Human Services representatives and even Boys and Girls Clubs.

Each team is different, as it comprises the resources available in the individual community it serves. The one thing they all have in common is the requirement that these resources work together effectively toward the treatment of the children they are trying to help.

The groups' ability to do this usually changes for the better over time, as the parts come together to form a more cohesive unit. But this happens in varying degrees from place to place. Some teams are highly effective while others aren't, and some don't make a go of it for long enough to benefit their communities.

Topping is studying and documenting the factors that go into these different levels of success. It is hoped that once the research is complete, current and future MAP teams can use the findings to more effectively carry out their missions.



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October 1, 2003 4:09 PM