David A. Imler Youth Assessment and Nokomis Next


The David A. Imler Youth Assessment and Nokomis Next are two projects sponsored by Hillsboro Area Hospital. In partnership with two school districts, PSP was able to create a comprehensive schoolwide assessment that utilizes a risk and protective factor approach. This approach is used to explain differences between youth in the community who are at low risk and youth who are at significantly high risk. It also considers the factors like community connection that protect youth from risky behavior. Considering that there is more than one reason behind negative youth health outcomes (e.g., suicide), a risk and protective factor framework would help assess which issues (e.g., low community connection, poor school climate) need to be addressed most in community-centered prevention programs. 

These projects are driven by a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. CBPR is a research process that seeks to identify and build on strengths, resources, and relationships that exist within communities to address health concerns. By partnering with key stakeholders in the community, such as the local schools and hospitals, the research process is tackled as a team. These two projects were driven by the community and this has truly been reflected in the way that the community has supported these programs. 


When Hillsboro Area Hospital (HAH) in Montgomery County, Illinois, identified increases in youth suicide cases in 2019, leaders sought partners to improve the well-being of youth within the Hillsboro community. In order to better define and identify the issues facing Montgomery County youth, HAH partnered with PSP and Hillsboro Community School District No. 3 to develop a comprehensive assessment of youth in Hillsboro called the David A. Imler Youth Assessment. A Steering Committee of community members was formed as a result of this partnership to evaluate the data from the assessment and choose a program to fit the needs of the Hillsboro area youth best.

The Steering Committee voted on two programs to begin in the 2020-2021 academic school year called The Blues Program and Sources of Strength. These programs were implemented in the high school and were geared towards prevention and intervention. In the Fall of 2021, HAH and PSP partnered with Nokomis CUSD #22 to assess the students of Nokomis, a neighboring community to Hillsboro. PSP plans to follow the same process with this community as with Hillsboro, creating a Steering Committee and voting on evidence-based programs. In Hillsboro, programs have expanded to the middle school and another program, entitled Strengthening Families, is set to begin in Spring of 2022. 

Project Lead

Nicole Summers-Gabr

PSP Team Members

Corbin Coniglio, Jessica Cantrall


Hillsboro Area Hospital, Hillsboro CUSD #3, Nokomis CUSD #22


The purpose and goals of the David A. Imler Youth Assessment and Nokomis Next are to examine risk and protective factors related to mental health. Then, after the assessment is completed, a group of community stakeholders meets to examine the data and decide on evidence-based programs to implement within the community. 


The initial data collection found that the students were at risk due to low commitment to school, bullying, and family conflict. However, students had protective factors such as family attachment, rewards for prosocial involvement at school, and academic self-efficacy. Results also suggested that 18.9% of middle school students and 33.6% of high school students showed abnormal levels of depression symptoms. There was no significant change in students’ depression levels in the post-test after the first year of the programs, but this may be due to a low sample size. 


The Department of Population Science and Policy and Hillsboro Area Hospital received the 2022 Outstanding Rural Health Program award by the National Rural Health Association for work to achieve a "Healthy Hillsboro." Read more.

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