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University of Maryland School of Medicine Creates Innovative Psychiatry Translational Research Center

Friday, January 20, 2012

David B. Pruitt, M.D.
 David B. Pruitt, M.D.

University of Maryland Child and Adolescent Mental Health Innovations Center is Dedicated to Creating New Mental Health Interventions for Underserved Youth

The University of Maryland School of Medicine and its Department of Psychiatry have created a new Child and Adolescent Mental Health Innovations Center (UM-MHIC) to accelerate the development of new methods to improve the mental health treatment of underserved youth with mental illness.

The new center is dedicated to developing and advancing evidence-based interventions for community mental health treatment, models for integration of behavioral health services, and  multi-disciplinary training to improve services for underserved young people. The center will include researchers and collaborators that form a multi-disciplinary team spanning psychiatry, psychology, social work, pharmacology, pediatrics, and epidemiology. They have expertise in pediatric obesity, psychological trauma, psychopharmacology, school based mental health interventions, and child development. The center will be directed by David B. Pruitt, M.D., professor of psychiatry, head of the Division for Adolescent Psychiatry and director of the Taghi Modaressi Center for Infant Study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“This new, multidisciplinary initiative brings together our world-class scientists from many fields of research and patient care to bring hope as quickly as possible to underserved children struggling with mental illness,” says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs of the University of Maryland and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “The center will be committed to research that addresses the biological and psychological factors contributing to children’s mental illness. This research systematically tackles social barriers to quality children’s mental health care including access, stigma, limited workforce training and inadequate, poorly coordinated community resources.” 

“This center will enable us to turn the internationally renowned research of our Department of Psychiatry into clinical interventions to benefit underserved populations,” says Anthony Lehman, M.D., M.S.P.H., professor and chair of psychiatry and senior associate dean for clinical affairs at the School of Medicine. “These populations include the youngest patients — infants, toddlers, and preschoolers — youth who have been victims of violence and other traumas, young people with co-occurring substance abuse and mental illness, and families who seek services outside of traditional mental health settings because of stigma or access concerns.” 

The center encompasses several new translational programs. These initiatives include the Peer to Peer Program, a Medicaid-funded antipsychotic pre-authorization treatment program developed to improve appropriate prescribing and safety monitoring for youth treated with antipsychotic medication. It also includes the MATCH program (Making All the Children Healthy), an initiative by the Baltimore City Department of Social Services that provides health screening for all Baltimore City youth in foster care as they enter the child welfare system. 

“These initiatives provide direct services to improve the psychiatric care of underserved youth — those entering the child welfare system. They also work to improve appropriate safety monitoring for children, including monitoring for obesity-related side effects in preschoolers treated with antipsychotic medication,” says Dr. Pruitt.

“Our new center’s programs also provide a vehicle to study treatment outcomes, identify predictors of treatment response, and study youth with complex psychopathology — psychological trauma combined with learning disabilities and mood disorders — who often are excluded from traditional research studies,” explains Dr. Pruitt.

The UM-MHIC will also focus on research to improve effective screening for youth at risk for psychosis, and predictors of obesity related health problems in youth with serious mental illness.   Its faculty train other providers nationally and throughout the state of Maryland on the implementation of evidence-based practices addressing trauma, early childhood issues, and school mental health problems. 

The center supported by significant partnerships with statewide family organizations, including the Maryland Coalition of Families for Children’s Mental Health, community programs and agencies, including the Mental Hygiene Administration of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Human Resources, and Medicaid, as well as researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Child Psychiatry Division.

“We are committing our extraordinary resources to target to the most vulnerable of psychiatric patients, the youngest of children, those have been abused and families who do not know where to turn for help with mental illness,” says Dean Reece. “I have confidence that our top-tier science will bring relief to these families and create innovative new interventions that will change the field of child psychiatry.”

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