July 1st, 2014

Initiatives receive $8 million in grants

Twenty-two Massachusetts mental health initiatives received a total of $8 million in grants through funds recovered by the Attorney General’s Office through a settlement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

The “Increasing Access to and Measuring the Benefits of Providing Behavioral Health Services in Massachusetts” grant program supports projects that improve the delivery of mental health and substance abuse services in order to improve public health, welfare and safety.

Among grantees, the Alliance for Inclusion and Prevention’s Connecting with Care (CWC) program received $250,000 over two years. CWC coordinates with community mental health providers to place full-time, Master’s-level mental health professionals in Boston public schools. Clinicians treat the full range of disorders in children and receive training and weekly supervision in evidence-based treatments for trauma and anxiety from CWC Program Director Lisa Baron, Ed.D., a licensed psychologist.

Baron says, in addition to increasing access to services, having a full-time school-based clinician helps decrease stigma. “When a clinician is deeply integrated in the culture of the school, it really removes all of the stigma around mental health and counseling,” Baron says. “It’s seen as just another service that children receive such as physical therapy or speech therapy.”

Alliance for Inclusion and Prevention Executive Director Robert Kilkenny, Ed.D., says having a clinician on staff normalizes the experience for children and their parents.

Clinicians are fully integrated into the fabric and faculty of the school. “Mental health should be a part of the same continuum of services that schools typical offer,” Kilkenny says.

CWC also improves access – children may be seen by a clinician more quickly, so parents may avoid long waiting lists in outpatient clinics and missed work hours. “Parents often begin treatment but can’t sustain it,” Kilkenny says. “A lot of mental health dollars go into treatments that are interrupted very early in the process. That money is in many ways not being efficiently or effectively spent.”

The program began in 2006 and currently serves children in grades K through 8. It will expand to increase its number of school-based clinicians to 18 and add another evidence-based treatment to services, for disruptive disorders.

Another grantee is ServiceNet, Inc., which received $426,280 over two years to expand its mental health and substance abuse treatment for the homeless population, which integrates clinical treatment with case management through a multi-disciplinary team.

Seth Dunn, director of program development, says ServiceNet began integrating mental health and substance abuse counseling with case management services for the homeless after determining that referring a person for treatment didn’t ensure the person followed through on the treatment. “These are people who quite often are alone, they are isolated, they have burnt bridges with family and friends, and they often have a level of mistrust,” he says.

ServiceNet also uses another, evidence-based model that works with people who have dual disorders and chronic homelessness, bringing together a team of trained clinical social workers or licensed mental health clinicians to work on an outreach basis, he says. For example, staff might visit a local campground and bring sandwiches and coffee to the homeless, forming relationships and helping to build trust.

“We try to reach out to people to help them get to where they need to go,” he says. “They do better when they have case managers who monitor their treatments and help make sure they are compliant.”

The program has seen many positive outcomes, Dunn says. “There’s definitely a relationship in the amount of contact we have, the amount of engagement, and helping people follow through,” he says.

For a description of all award winners, visit: http://www.mass.gov/ago/news-and-updates/press-releases/2014/2014-05-20-health-service-grants.html.

By Pamela Berard

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