Photos: Hoag Levins
Leading the Penn/Community collaboration work that won a national award are (l to r), 
David Mandell, ScD, Director of the Penn Center for Mental Health (CMH), Rinad Beidas, PhD, Director of Implementation Research at CMH, and Rebecca Stewart, PhD, CMH Assistant Professor. All three are LDI Senior Fellows.

The University of Pennsylvania Center for Mental Health (CMH) and the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) have jointly won a Society for Implementation Research Collaboration Conference (SIRC) award for their years of work on a project to improve care in the City’s community mental health centers.

SIRC is a ten-year-old national professional organization of researchers and health care administrators that supports and champions rigorous evaluation of the implementation of evidence-based psychosocial interventions, particularly in large-scale mental health provider networks.

‘Outstanding contributions’

The Penn Center and Philadelphia City Department received the “SIRC Mission Award” in a Seattle ceremony in recognition of their “outstanding contributions of collaborative teams in advancing implementation science and practice.”

“Receiving this inaugural SIRC Mission Award is highly meaningful to our group as researchers embedded within a community-academic partnership,” said Rinad Beidas, PhD, Director of Implementation Research at the Center for Mental Health and LDI Senior Fellow. “Often within the context of academic research, we never see our discoveries have an impact. The beauty of this type of collaboration is that we can actually see our work move the needle and have impact on the delivery of mental health care for Philadelphians.”

150,000 patients

The overall collaboration began as a small joint effort between the City and what is now Penn’s Department of Psychiatry 30 years ago and continued to evolve. Its goal is to identify methods and interventions to improve care for the City’s Medicaid population. The ongoing collaborative work includes policymakers from DBH, managers from Community Behavioral Health (CBH), the quasi governmental entity solely responsible for the payment of Medicaid services in Philadelphia, administrators and therapists in the DBH network of community mental health centers, and Penn faculty and trainee researchers from CMH. The DBH network provides mental health services to more than 150,000 individuals each year.

Since 2007, DBH, CMH and other groups in psychiatry have coordinated on the implementation of latest practices, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other evidence-based treatments. Their work has also produced nearly three dozen scientific papers, dozens of national presentations, and educational materials for the public.

Dynamic developments

“The research work of the collaboration recognized by this award is not static and continues to refocus as needed on the dynamics of citywide mental health-related issues, such as the current opioid crisis,” said Rebecca Stewart, PhD, Assistant Professor at CMH and LDI Senior Fellow.

“DBH is the first municipality to mandate medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder,” Steward continued, “and they are supporting treatment providers across the city through innovative initiatives and policies in their delivery of evidence-based care. They have allowed CMH to evaluate their efforts, and they integrate new findings as they become available into citywide initiatives.”