Grant to help city mental patients

Thanks to a $2.4 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly 360 low-income African-American and Hispanic residents of New Haven and Bridgeport who are suffering from psychiatric disabilities will be treated under an innovative patient-centered care study run by the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell, along with U.S. Reps. Christopher Shays and Rosa DeLauro, who represents New Haven, announced the grant last week. It will provide approximately $475,000 a year over a five-year period to the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“This funding will bring Connecticut to the forefront in the implementation of new and innovative treatments for individuals with mental illness,” DeLauro said in a statement.

The study will be administered by the Yale program, which is affiliated with both the Yale School of Medicine and the state mental health department. Care services in New Haven will be provided at the Connecticut Mental Health Center, which is also sponsored by Yale and state mental health department, and its satellite clinic La Clinica Hispana, which is specially geared towards the area’s Latino population.

According to Larry Davidson, the director of the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health and an associate professor of psychiatry, the study is targeting members of the African-American and Hispanic communities who are currently disadvantaged with regard to psychiatric care because of health and treatment disparities.

The study will focus on investigating culturally responsive patient-centered care, which gives patients an increased role in determining their treatment. Davidson said patient-centered care is the standard in other areas of medicine but has not yet been extensively applied to mental health.

“People who are involved in any aspect of their own care … tend to have better outcomes because they’re more invested in their care,” state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services spokesman Wayne Dailey said. “The care involves their participation, their ideas. They’re actively involved in working toward their health.”

The program will also pair psychiatric patients with people who have recovered from similar problems.

“We’ve been learning about what helps people manage psychosis and recover from people who have lived with the illness,” Davidson said. “That has led us to build more collaborative models of care and more responsive ones.”

Michelle Duprey, the director of New Haven’s Department of Services for Persons with Disabilities, said giving people with disabilities some control over their treatment is a step in the right direction.

“Unfortunately, people with disabilities have very significant struggles with housing, unemployment and lack of benefits, and in addition a lot of people with disabilities don’t get control over their treatment,” she said. “I think this provides an opportunity to change that course.”

Ann Hohmann, the chief of the Methods & Disablement Program at the National Institute of Mental Health, said the study is the type of research that is needed to reduce the nationwide impact of mental illness.

“With a solid theoretical grounding and focused on a population in critical need of and most often lacking care — low-income, minority people suffering from a psychotic illness — Dr. Davidson’s research holds out the promise of providing evidence-based, culturally sensitive and customizable mental health care for the nation,” Hohmann said.

The Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health and the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services have applied for this grant for the past two years, both times unsuccessfully. Yale’s program was launched in 2000 as a training, consultation and research organization affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry at the medical school. Focused on learning about recovery and social inclusion of persons who historically have been socially marginalized, the program’s work includes research on increasing access to mental health and addiction services and a study on racial and ethnic health care disparities.

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