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Tip of the Week: Implementing the NABITA Standards for BITs (Part XVI)

NABITA membership has more than doubled over the last year. To help new members implement the NABITA Standards for Behavioral Intervention Teams (BITs), and to provide continuing members with a refresher, NABITA is launching a Tip of the Week series specifically focused on the BIT Standards. Twenty standards, twenty Tips of the Week (maybe more), aimed specifically at the practical application of the BIT Standards. (Note: the twenty Tips may not be published consecutively so that NABITA can bring you timely updates regarding other topics.)

Standard 17. Psychological, Threat and Violence Risk Assessments: BITs conduct threat and violence risk assessment as part of their overall approach to prevention and intervention.

Assessments are an essential part of the BIT process. While all types of assessments can provide you with beneficial information, it is essential that BITs use the appropriate type of assessment depending on the specific information they are seeking from the assessment. In other words, what is the question you are trying to answer?  Are you concerned about risk of violence? Or about a threat a student made? Are mental health concerns impacting your ability to implement interventions? Choosing the correct type of assessment to align it with your informational need is a critical first step.

The four types of assessments available are a general risk assessment, threat assessment, psychological assessment, and violence risk assessment.

BITs focus on a proactive intervention approach by using a generalized risk assessment, like the NABITA Risk Rubric, for a variety of situations and concerning behaviors at every level of risks to lower risk and ease distress. On the other hand, a threat assessment is used in response to explicit or veiled threats. This type of assessment focuses on the specific details of a threat, the threat’s actionability, and/or if crisis response is appropriate. This type of assessment is limited in scope, examining the likelihood of violence as it relates to the specific threat only. Another assessment option is a psychological assessment. Unlike the first two types of assessments, a trained, licensed clinician must conduct a psychological assessment. This type of assessment focuses on determining whether a mental health diagnosis and treatment plan is appropriate (e.g., medication, outpatient therapy, behavioral health hospitalization). Lastly, a violence risk assessment (VRA), like the Structured Interview for Violence Risk Assessment (SIVRA-35), explores a variety of risk factors and protective elements, in a comprehensive manner, to determine the potential for violence or dangerousness toward a person, group, or system.

Practical tip – Very often, BITs refer an individual for a “mental health evaluation” or psychological assessment after the individual has engaged in threatening behavior (e.g., direct, veiled, conditional, indirect). While a psychological assessment may also be beneficial in determining the presence of a mental health illness and treatment recommendations, it is not sufficient for determining the risk of targeted or instrumental violence. BITs should train multiple team members to conduct a VRA, like the SIVRA-35, for when individuals engage in threatening behavior so that BITs have the capacity to assess potential risk effectively and efficiently. Because a VRA is broader than a psychological assessment and weighs a variety of factors, it will provide the team with more information to better inform the intervention strategy.

For more information regarding upcoming training, please click here.

Tim Cason, M. Ed.

Consultant, TNG