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Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research

About Us

The aim of the new Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research at the Bloomberg School is to improve the lives of persons with mental illness and addiction through engaging in policy research, translating research evidence into policy and practice, and training a next generation of mental health and addiction policy researchers.

Our vision

The toll of mental illness and addiction on individuals, families, the economy and our society is high.  Serious mental illness costs nearly $200 billion a year in the U.S. in lost earnings. Suicide ranks among the top killers, especially among young people. Addiction confers major negative externalities including those associated with impaired driving, communicable disease transmission and crime. The problem of prescription opioid and heroin addiction has become a national epidemic. Courts and jails manage an increasingly large number of individuals suffering from mental illness and addiction. People with mental illnesses and addiction problems have higher rates of chronic medical illnesses and die earlier, on average, than the general population, often from treatable conditions associated with modifiable risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and inadequate medical care.

A landmark 1999 U.S. Surgeon General report determined that effective treatments were available for most mental illnesses. Yet, fewer than 40 percent of those with mental illness and fewer than 10 percent with addiction diagnoses receive any treatment, and quality of care is often poor.  A defining characteristic of mental health and addiction services has been the historical separation from the rest of the medical care system, and prevailing financing and insurance arrangements have exacerbated this separation.  A major effort has been waged over the last two decades to spur integration of mental health and addiction care within the broader medical care system. Integrated approaches also hold promise because mental illness and substance abuse are often co-occurring. Yet, the forces prompting separate systems for mental health, addiction, and general medical care– stigma, discrimination, adverse selection, and concerns about social order – are still being grappled with today and pose formidable challenges to bringing mental health and addiction care into the mainstream.

The passage of the ACA represents a unique milestone in efforts to improve access and spur integration of mental health and addiction care. Medicaid expansions and the new insurance marketplaces are broadening coverage to many individuals who have had limited or no access to needed mental health and addiction services. Payment and delivery system reforms such as accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes aimed at addressing longstanding concerns about health care spending growth and care coordination have the potential to improve integration and care quality. However, these and other recent policy changes raise a host of critical research questions. Will accountable care organizations at risk for a population’s total costs avoid enrolling individuals with mental illness? How can care coordination models be developed to effectively meet the needs of a low income, disabled population with mental illness or addiction at risk of homelessness and criminal justice involvement? How can financial incentives encourage a shift to more evidence-based treatment?  How do delivery systems need to change in order to successfully deliver integrated care?

The aim of the new Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research at the Bloomberg School is to improve the lives of persons with mental illness and addiction through engaging in policy research, translating research evidence into policy and practice, and training a next generation of mental health and addiction policy researchers.