New Funding Awarded to Boost Individualized Treatment for Schizophrenia

Research; Social Work

The National Institutes of Mental Health has awarded a $10.5 million renewal of funding for a research center to develop and implement effective treatments for people with schizophrenia. Leopoldo J. Cabassa, a professor at the Brown School, co-leads the Methods Core and leads the Qualitative Research Unit at the grantee center, which is based at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

The center, Optimizing and Personalizing Interventions for Schizophrenia Across the Lifespan (OPAL) will use the grant to extend its efforts to accelerate the development and implementation of effective, individualized treatments for schizophrenia in routine clinical settings. The aims of the Center renewal are to:

  1. Support research that examines innovative ways to optimize treatments for people with schizophrenia throughout the lifespan and accelerate the translation of clinical research on schizophrenia to routine practice settings.
  2. Conduct projects that develop, adapt, and test innovative, accessible, and person-centered interventions that improve engagement in treatment and can be readily deployed.
  3. Train scientists who will conduct translational research on interventions and services for schizophrenia.

The OPAL Center will support a Signature Project and three exploratory studies. The Signature will use 16 years of data (2007-2022) from the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services to test hypotheses about risk factors for dementia among people diagnosed with schizophrenia and compare the effectiveness of treatment strategies after diagnosis of dementia. Exploratory project 1 tests a novel, person-centered approach to assessment and treatment initiation for individuals from historically marginalized communities (e.g., Blacks, Latinx) with psychotic symptoms in community mental health clinics that incorporates an adapted version of the Cultural Formulation Interview to improve diagnosis and treatment engagement.  Exploratory project 2 will build on work done in Europe to adapt and test the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of Flexible Assertive Community Treatment (ACT), which will allow ACT teams to allocate resources according to the individual needs of participants, improving efficiency and outcomes. Exploratory project 3 will use mobile health technology to deliver measurement-based care and improve the person-centered outcomes of individuals with schizophrenia across the lifespan.

“The renewal of our OPAL center is an important step and investment by NIMH for continuing to support innovative studies that aim to bridge the gap between research and practice to improve the quality and outcomes of mental health care for people living with schizophrenia,” said Cabassa, Director of the Brown School Social Work PhD Program and co-director of the Center for Mental Health Services Research.