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UW School of Social Work taps technology to help curb suicide and improve child welfare
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UW School of Social Work taps technology to help curb suicide and improve child welfare

Edwina “Eddie” Uehara, a College of Washington professor and Ballmer Endowed Dean in Social Work, is raring to facilitate cultural exchanges. Not exchanges of folks from completely different international locations or ethnicities, however from disciplines that may be worlds aside: pc technology and social work.

“It actually is that this second,” mentioned Uehara, “when all of us are pivoting towards harnessing what this area is sweet at.”

It’s bringing collectively the Puget Sound space’s super technology abilities, its devoted philanthropists and the educational experience and group relationships of the UW’s School of Social Work. Every brings its personal strengths, she mentioned, with technology’s penchant for innovation, shifting rapidly and embracing change and the UW’s deep understanding of difficult social points and belief from the group.

“Neither sector can do it on their very own,” Uehara mentioned.

And thru these collaborations, the college helps transfer social applications which have lagged behind technologically into the twenty first Century.

Simply as we speak, Connie and Steve Ballmer announced a $20 million gift to the UW School of Social Work, bringing their whole funding the college to $32 million over the previous 5 years.

Two tasks at the moment underway spotlight this new tech emphasis: One focuses on social media and suicide prevention, and the opposite helps child welfare service suppliers in Washington extra simply entry info, coordinate care and consider their efficiency.

Earlier this 12 months, the UW introduced a partnership with Fb to develop instruments to help each folks in danger of suicide and their associates and household. This week, Fb representatives are returning to campus to meet with individuals who have misplaced family members to suicide. The objective is for the social media website to higher perceive the wants of folks on this scenario and to check instruments for aiding them.

The necessity for suicide prevention is important.

Suicide is the second main trigger of loss of life for folks age 15 to 34, in accordance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There’s a lot of potential for good with social media that always doesn’t get talked about,” mentioned Jennifer Stuber, co-founder of Forefront, a suicide prevention group throughout the School of Social Work, and one of the leads within the Fb collaboration.

Fb’s underlying objective is to join folks and these connections are a big “protecting issue” in stopping suicide, Stuber mentioned. “Social media is right here to keep, so how can we form that have to have it’s a constructive one.”

Fb has added instruments to its website offering suicide prevention sources and steerage for involved associates and household who need to help, however aren’t positive what steps to take. The sources embrace cellphone numbers for suicide prevention hotlines and ideas for speaking to somebody in danger. The location has a hyperlink for Fb customers to report somebody who may very well be suicidal.

If Fb deems the priority is credible, the particular person in danger will obtain messages of their information feed suggesting the place they’ll get help. The location can be offering extra focused sources for higher-risk populations together with veterans and the LBGTQ group.

There was some backlash to the suicide prevention effort, with folks accusing Fb of Huge Brother snooping and undesirable monitoring of individuals who may very well be suicidal.

Stuber mentioned that’s not what she’s seeing, and in truth needs they’d do extra to proactively determine individuals who may very well be suicidal and share sources in everybody’s information feed.

The suicide prevention sources will be tough to discover on the social media website. A Fb person can go to the drop-down menu to the fitting of privateness shortcuts icon on the instrument bar on the high of the web page, click on on the “Report a Downside” hyperlink, choose “Abusive Content material” and then “Report One thing.”

From there, suicide prevention sources are offered beneath “Particular Varieties of Reviews.” Alternately, they’ll select the “Report Submit” hyperlink when studying a selected publish, then test “I believe it shouldn’t be on Fb” and then “It advocates violence or hurt to an individual or animal” or “It’s threatening, violent or suicidal.”

“[Facebook is] attempting to stroll a tremendous line of offering help and sources with out being overly intrusive and invasive,” Stuber mentioned.

Fb declined to share with GeekWire details about how many individuals have accessed the sources or reported doubtlessly suicidal customers.

Since 2000, suicide charges have been growing nationally and greater than 40,000 folks took their very own lives in 2013 – most of them males. If Fb “can join folks to individuals who care, and present sources, that’s an enormous deal,” Stuber mentioned. “And I get the sense that they’re genuinely attempting to do it.”

A brand new focus for the partnership is supporting associates and household after a suicide, Stuber mentioned, and addressing the ‘contagion’ phenomenon the place somebody considers suicide after another person takes their very own life. As a result of folks use Fb as a spot for memorials and sharing grief, it offers an necessary alternative for guiding folks to help and stopping further loss.

The Fb partnership with the UW’s Forefront program “is a superb instance of the path the college goes in,” mentioned Uehara, dean of the School of Social Work. “It’s not an anomaly. It’s half of the motion we’re creating.”

Additionally half of that motion is a child welfare venture launched by the UW’s Partners for Our Children heart. A $16.5 million program known as Oliver is constructing software program and apps that may help coordinate care and consider the effectiveness of providers for youths quickly in foster care and homeless teenagers.

The foster care app is already being examined in Spokane, and Tacoma suppliers are going to start testing this week. The Oliver app will help coordinate court-ordered, supervised visits between youngsters quickly residing with foster households and their mother and father. There are 8,500 youngsters in foster care in Washington, some of whom are assembly with their mother and father two or 3 times every week.

“There’s a lot of planning that takes place,” mentioned Ben de Haan, govt director of Companions for Our Kids. “The visits are monitored by non-public firms, and there may be transportation that’s concerned and so much of paperwork.”

The brand new instrument ought to make the coordination as simple as on-line reserving for a flight on Alaska Airways, de Haan mentioned, the place you choose routes and select your seats.

The second venture underway is attempting to deliver some order to the online of providers out there to homeless youth. The most important problem is the shortage of a government managing providers for the kids, providers that may come from the state, county and metropolis. It’s tough for anybody to know who’s getting which providers the place.

The Oliver venture has help from the Gates Basis, Connie and Steve Ballmer and others. The objective is to make the venture self-sustaining inside 5 years by low-cost person charges. Early evaluation reveals that the brand new technology can reduce the time spent on paperwork by 40 %, liberating these sources for interactions immediately with the kids and youth.

“Software program and new tailored software program are extremely costly and the folks utilizing it are working with some of the poorest folks in our society,” de Haan mentioned. The nonprofit teams offering the providers don’t have the sources to spend money on technology that may improve effectivity, so “we’re attempting to help people catch up.”

Whereas the Oliver venture has centered on social providers for youngsters in Washington, the software program ought to be readily adaptable for different states to use.

“Seattle is properly often known as being a hotbed for technological innovation and the College of Washington is well-known for its analysis,” de Haan mentioned. “It’s solely pure that Seattle would come collectively to use technology to resolve social issues. You’ll be able to see why it could occur right here.”

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