Rutgers receives $4.2 million federal grant to improve mental health services

Rutgers School of Health Professions has received a $4.2 million federal grant to train mental health practitioners as part of a new effort by the U.S. Department Health and Human Services to improve mental health services nationwide.

With the grant, Rutgers' Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling is creating a regional Mental Health Technology Transfer Center - one of 10 nationwide - to support practitioners and provider organizations that offer treatment, prevention and recovery services.

"One of the federal program's key goals is to expedite the transfer of evidence-based research into practice," said Kenneth Gill, chair of the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling and the grant's principal investigator.

On average, Gill said, there is a 17-year lag in implementing evidence-based research into practice in health care settings, and that delay is typically longer in the area of mental health.

"There are problems that are seen as unsolvable. But we have ways to address them - such as strategies for reducing homelessness, chronic unemployment, and unnecessary incarceration among people who are mentally ill - and they are not being used," Gill said. "If the research-based practices are better implemented, there will be better outcomes for people with serious mental illnesses."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration established the national network of centers as part of a new approach to making effective mental health disorder treatments, support services, and evidence-based practices widely available to people with mental illness.

The Rutgers center's regional area of service includes New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where increases in depression, anxiety, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder have been reported in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

Working with providers, state administrators, community organizations, service participants, teachers, administrators, school staff and families, the center will determine workforce development needs and provide in-person and online training, technical assistance and resource dissemination, said Ann Murphy, program director of Rutgers School of Health Profession's Ph.D. in Psychiatric Rehabilitation, and the grant project director.

It will also focus on the needs of the Hispanic population, creating English and Spanish online repositories for information, materials and resources.

The center, which will be located on Rutgers School of Health Profession's Piscataway campus, will launch its work in November with conferences, train-the-trainer training and online courses. It is expected to be fully operational in 2019, according to Gill.

"Rutgers Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling has been a national leader in innovative practices, with a community focus, for people with serious mental illnesses," said Dean Gwendolyn Mahon. "It has provided educational and technical assistance services to New Jersey for 17 years, and more recently, New York and Washington states, and the City of New York."

Gill is a leading researcher in New Jersey in the field of mental illness, specializing in the areas of health and wellness, education and employment among people with serious mental illness. His research on jail diversion for those with mental illness led to the establishment of jail diversion programs in multiple New Jersey counties. He has authored a textbook entitled Psychiatric Rehabilitation.

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