NYU Langone Health is a longtime leader in developing innovative strategies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of state mental health programs that serve children and their families. One important innovation is the IDEAS Center, based at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). It aims to speed up the process by which evidence-based practices are adopted in such settings.
Developing Strategies to Spur Policymaking Improvements
IDEAS stands for Implementation and Dissemination of Evidence-Based Practices Among States. It’s the only mental health services research center in the United States devoted to expediting state policies affecting children, adolescents, and their families. “It typically takes 15 to 25 years for published research to be translated into practice in state mental health systems,” explains Kimberly E. Hoagwood, PhD, the Cathy and Stephen Graham Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and vice chair for research in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, who co-directs the IDEAS Center with Mary McKay, PhD, dean of the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. “Our goal is to find ways to narrow the gap,” says Dr. Hoagwood.
In May 2019, the IDEAS Center was awarded a 4-year, $6.7 million grant from NIMH’s Advanced Laboratories for Accelerating the Reach and Impact of Treatments for Youth and Adults with Mental Illness (ALACRITY) program. This funding is enabling the center to develop and test accelerator strategies through three research projects.
The first study involves a nationwide survey exploring how state policymakers use research evidence about children’s mental health. Using data collected from the survey, the team will then develop a simulation model to help researchers target policymakers more effectively when they disseminate their research findings. “We want to determine what factors make policymakers pay attention to scientific findings and what kinds of evidence they find credible,” Dr. Hoagwood notes. “This has never been done before in children’s mental health or in mental health as a whole.” This project is led by Jonathan Purtle, DrPH, MPH, MSc, from Drexel University.
The center’s second project is studying the use of a diagnostic tool to improve emergency department physicians’ identification of children at risk for suicide, as well as the implementation of a corresponding protocol that outlines the needed follow-up care. The third project is studying the implementation of an intervention by family peer advocates (parents or caregivers of children with mental health needs trained to help those in a similar position) aimed at boosting parent and caregiver engagement in a treatment program for adolescents and young adults with first-episode psychosis.
Speeding the Journey from Research into Reality
Along with an interdisciplinary group of experts at NYU Langone—including Sarah Horwitz, PhD, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, who co-directs the center’s Methods Core—the IDEAS Center draws on a national network of investigators, many of whom have worked on previously funded NIMH implementation science centers under Dr. Hoagwood’s leadership.
One of the key laboratories where IDEAS Center research is conducted is the Community Technical Assistance Center (CTAC), led by Andrew Cleek, PsyD, of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at NYU. CTAC, funded by the New York State Office of Mental Health, provides the state’s clinics and agencies with technical assistance and training tools that promote effective care through efficient practices. “CTAC provides a platform for IDEAS researchers to launch both research studies and evaluations,” says Dr. Hoagwood. “Meanwhile, IDEAS provides CTAC with data on the implementation and adoption of evidence-based practices and quality improvement initiatives, which can then be shared across New York state and with other states.”
Going forward, IDEAS will continue its decade-long collaboration with CTAC. “This academic–community collaboration expedites the implementation of evidence-based practices directly into the communities where they are needed,” Dr. Hoagwood says.