NAFI Recidivism Reduction Program Wins 2019 Spirit Of The Community Program Award

December 6, 2019
From left, Lynn Bishop, Executive Director of NAFI CT/RI/NY; Celine Conti, Lead Therapist of MST-EA; Lisseth Jurado, Supervisor of MST-EA; Keyonna Crockett, Therapist for MST-EA; and Dr. Bakal, President of NAFI/NFI
From left, Lynn Bishop, Executive Director of NAFI CT/RI/NY; Celine Conti, Lead Therapist of MST-EA; Lisseth Jurado, Supervisor of MST-EA; Keyonna Crockett, Therapist for MST-EA; and Dr. Bakal, President of NAFI/NFI.


The 2019 NAFI CT Spirit of the Community Program Award was given to a pioneering program designed to reduce recidivism for transitional age youth (ages 17-20) who have both a recent history of criminal involvement and mental health challenges.

“We are wholeheartedly excited and appreciative for this recognition of MST – TAY,” NAFI CT Project Director Diane Thompson said in announcing the award at the North American Family Institute’s recent annual conference.

MST-TAY stands for the Multisystemic Therapy – Transition Age Youth Program, a promising evidenced based model that provides intensive individual treatment. The program is a research pilot project initially brought to NAFI CT through a partnership with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the University of Massachusetts. It is overseen by the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, Court Support Services Division.

The goal of MST-TAY treatment is to stabilize youth with significant mental health impairment and other high-risk behaviors within the community through intensive multi-weekly treatment sessions for up to six months, the NAFI CT website explains. The clinical focus is on safety preservation, crisis management, establishing natural supports and increasing life skills to support the youth’s transition into adulthood.

Male and female youth are treated as part of an interdisciplinary team approach, with a life coach assigned to work with each client on supplemental life skills, vocational, educational, and social reinforcement needs throughout the treatment. An additional six months of life coach support is provided to each client.

“Did you know there are currently no evidenced based recidivism reduction treatments in this country for young adults between the ages of 17-26?” Thompson asked at the award presentation. “I’m proud and honored to tell you that soon this will not be the case due to this amazing program!”

“With promising data, brilliant MST-TAY teams and Dr. Bakal’s inspiration for this type of cutting edge programming, we have in our sights 2020-21 for completion of the clinical trials and the prospect of MST-TAY becoming the first evidenced based model for reducing recidivism for this vastly underserved emerging adult age group—in the world,” Thompson added, referring to NAFI/NFI President Dr. Yitzhak Bakal. “Thank you to Dr. Bakal for creating a culture in NAFI where innovation like this is encouraged and nurtured and thank you to these amazing MST-TAY folks who bring the vision to life every day!”

There are currently two NAFI CT MST-TAY teams with two supervisors, eight therapists and eight coaches, serving roughly two-thirds of Connecticut with an expansion of the program statewide on the horizon.

MST-TAY Team One is based in Hamden, serving the Bridgeport/Milford/Waterbury area, and Team Two, based in Hartford, serves the Hartford/Manchester/New Britain area.

The North American Family Institute (NAFI/NFI) annual conference, 45 Years! Shaping Our Future – Empowered By Our Past, was held Oct. 22 to 24 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Boston North Shore in Danvers, Mass. Staff from Maine to Florida attended.

“I can say with confidence that NAFI/NFI at forty-five years old is as vibrant and mission-driven as it ever has been,” Dr. Bakal said in a message following the conference. “Your warm and enthusiastic participation makes our gathering joyful and memorable. I feel proud and energized by our reunion and I hope that you are carrying back with you a renewed sense of commitment to our noble mission.”

Founded in 1974, NAFI/NFI is a private, nonprofit human services agency serving eight states with community-based care for children, youth and adults with mental health and/or behavioral issues. Programming and services are designed around the Normative Community Approach, which emphasizes the ability of all people to achieve positive change when they are members of a community united in mission and purpose.

NAFI CT provides programming, consultation, and individualized support services to youth, families, and adults in a variety of settings. Core services include foster care, developmental services, residential treatment, and in-home services and consultations.

To learn more, call NAFI CT at 860.284.1177 or see the website at