Linking Research and Practice: By Working Together, We Can Make Real Improvements in Treatment Delivery

Article excerpt

The past 20 years have brought important advances in our science base regarding the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of mental health and substance abuse disorders, much of which was summarized in the 1999 Surgeon General's report on mental health. For example, depression, once a taboo subject, is now better understood, accepted, and more effectively treated than ever before, with successful treatment rates around 80%.

However, as with all areas of medical care, major gaps exist between our knowledge base and what happens in ordinary practice. A well-known report in 2004 indicated that persons receive medical care that comports with treatment recommendations only about half of the time. (1) Closing the gap between clinic-based knowledge and practice is one of the major challenges confronting our field.

In an attempt to address these issues and make services more effective, Mental Health America (formerly the National Mental Health Association) has formed a partnership with the Academic Behavioral Health Consortium to strengthen linkages between academia and the field.

Mental Health America is the oldest public education and advocacy voice for mental health in the country. With more than 320 affiliates, Mental Health America provides a nationwide network of talented and committed staff and volunteers who can assist in the processes of improving care. The Consortium is a nationwide group of mental healthcare researchers and service providers representing 19 of America's leading medical schools. The Consortium represents clinical directors from each of these programs involved both with care delivery and the training of mental health professionals from all of the core disciplines. We formally launched our collaboration by cosponsoring a mental health practice and policy conference in Baltimore on October 27 and 28, 2006.

The blueprint for this partnership is Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, the pivotal 2001 Institute of Medicine report that articulated the overarching principles of effective healthcare and provided recommendations for realizing them. Among its principles of effective healthcare are the following, which are central to our mission:

* Science-based. Services must be based on scientific knowledge.

* Patient-centered. Care must be respectful and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and must include patient values in clinical decision making.

* Equitable. Care must not vary in quality due to personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, geographic location, or socioeconomic status.

Realizing these principles means accelerating the integration of the science base into practice and policy. …