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New Pitt Center Aims to Bridge Science-to-Service Gap in Mental Health Care

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Ashley Trentrock
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8/10/2018

PITTSBURGH – Despite many academic advances in the mental health field, it can take decades before new research-based treatments are implemented into clinical care in the community.  A new center at the University of Pittsburgh is working to solve that problem and improve behavioral health care in real-world, community-based settings.

The Center for Interventions to Enhance Community Health (CiTECH), developed by Pitt’s School of Social Work and in partnership with the Department of Psychiatry, will bridge the science-to-service gap in mental health by developing and testing ways to make the research advances in treatment more quickly available to community residents who would benefit the most.

“Pitt’s School of Social Work has a long-standing reputation and commitment to delivering high-impact community-based research and service,” said Shaun Eack, Ph.D., CiTECH director and professor of social work, psychiatry, psychology and clinical and translational science. “By integrating the scientific, clinical and community expertise of social work and psychiatry, we hope to dramatically reduce the 15- to 20-year lag between the development of a practice and its use at the community level,” said Eack.

For clinical trials that show positive results from interventions, CiTECH will fast-track their adoption into everyday community practices and will collaborate with community providers and policymakers to translate best practices that reflect the realities of community settings. Further, Pitt scientists will collaborate with community partners to develop new treatments, ensuring that these approaches are ready for the “real world” once developed.

CiTECH also will leverage rapidly advancing technology in mobile health and digital phenotyping to deliver care using smart phones and two-way video systems for patients who live in rural areas and do not have ready access to city clinics.

David A. Brent, M.D., CiTECH co-director and endowed chair in suicide studies at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, and Pitt Schools of the Health Sciences professor of psychiatry, pediatrics, epidemiology and clinical and translational science, notes that, “As clinicians and researchers, it is vital that our research meets the needs of community practitioners and those who seek mental health care. With that in mind, we can leverage the communication between CiTECH and community partners to make certain that our research is informed by, and is useful to, community practitioners and their patients.”

Current CiTECH projects:

  • Adapting evidence-based sleep interventions to help youth stay awake and succeed in school.
  • Implementing psychosocial interventions for psychotic patients in community settings.
  • Targeting the opiate epidemic through partnerships with community pharmacists.
  • Enhancing the capacity of pediatric primary care to assess, triage and manage depressed and suicidal youth.
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