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Mental Health

Mental Health Services and Policy

The general public and policy makers are increasingly recognizing the burden of mental illness and substance abuse. Public attitudes towards the prevention and/or treatment of these disorders and the numbers of persons receiving services have grown markedly over the past two decades. The Affordable Care Act proposes to greatly increase access to both prevention and treatment services and expand supports and services for persons in recovery. Nevertheless, many barriers remain.

Both mental illness and substance abuse remain stigmatized and there are major gender, racial-ethnic, and economic inequities in access, use and quality of services and supports. Many services available are not based on strong empirical evidence and others do not reach quality standards, are too costly, and/or are not widely accepted by persons at risk for or with mental disorders or substance abuse.

The faculty in the Mental Health Services and Policy Area remain committed to the vision of recovery espoused by the New Freedom Commission as a real possibility and focus their research and practice efforts on finding ways to make this possibility a reality. Faculty members implement their research findings on mental health and behavioral health services and supports in their communities, educational institutions, and employment, both nationally and internationally. Moving beyond specialty mental health or substance abuse sectors, faculty are working to create, study, and disseminate interventions that reduce risk, increase assets and resiliency, provide effective treatment, and aid in long-term recovery.

The faculty members affiliated with this Research Area conduct research in in diverse areas, including pre-school and educational programs, community mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services for children and adolescents, treatment seeking patterns for children, adolescents, adults, and elderly, public attitudes toward mental illnesses and substance abuse, health treatment seeking, pharmaco-epidemiology of psychiatric drugs and psychosocial and behavioral interventions, and economic evaluation of prevention, treatment, and recovery programs, among other areas. The full-time faculty also actively collaborate with other faculty in the Department of Mental Health and in other departments in the Schools of Public Health, Medicine, Nursing, Education, Business, and Arts and Sciences, as well as other academic, local, state, and federal agencies and institutions involved in mental health prevention, treatment and recovery services.

Faculty also participate in the development of community services for patients with serious mental and substance disorders.There are varied training opportunities for students in the Program in Mental Health Services and Policy. Each faculty member is involved in several projects in which students can gain research experience, both in and outside of the Department of Mental Health. Numerous opportunities are also available for collaboration on scholarly publications in the areas of mental health services.

Looking Ahead

A major aim of both the 2010 US Affordable Care Act and the 2008 Mental Health Parity legislation is to improve financial access to health care for disadvantaged population groups. We plan to continue evaluating trends in access and utilization of mental health services and trends in inequities in prevention, treatment, and recovery services and supports after implementation of these programs.