Friday, October 20, 2017

IPS Town Hall Focuses on NIMH Goals, Call for Ideas

The National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) Division of Services and Intervention Research (DSIR) is “open for business,” said division director Robert Heinssen, Ph.D., at a special session yesterday at APA’s fall conference, IPS: The Mental Health Services Conference, in New Orleans.

Heinssen noted that a combination of Congressional funding and a drive by new NIMH Director Joshua Gordon, M.D., to accelerate the institute’s public health impact has led to the availability of resources for developing innovative interventions that can reach more people with mental illness. "We are looking for good ideas," he said.

One area of particular interest, Heinssen said, are clinical studies on interventions that factor in end-user deployment issues—that is, intervention designs that already take into account the characteristics or limitations of the target service area. For example, a study could include behavioral therapy in a bilingual format to make an intervention useful in a strongly Latino community or require limited resources so that even a small community clinic could afford the intervention. Once validated in research, these strategies could be rapidly disseminated where needed.

NIMH is also interested in harnessing the power of existing digital technology that incorporates principles from social psychology, such as affirmation and positive reinforcement, to provide “24/7” support to people with mental illness. Such tools include smartphone apps that allow continuous patient communication and technologies like “asynchronous telepsychiatry” in which interviews of patients by trained staff are videotaped for review by psychiatrists at a later time.

These comments were part of a townhall discussion by three leaders from the National Institutes of Health who described the current themes or strategies of their respective institutes. In addition to Heinsenn, the presenters were Wilson Compton, M.D., M.P.E., deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Aaron White, Ph.D., a senior scientific advisor to the director at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

(Image: Nick Zagorski)


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