UMass psychologist receives $4.6 million to support mental health program

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has awarded UMass psychologist Amherst a $4.6 million grant to implement a program in which mental health patients are matched with psychotherapists based on the therapist’s prior clinical success.

Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Michael Constantino led a PCORI-funded randomized clinical trial, the first of its kind, which found that patients paired with therapists with a strong track record of treating their primary concerns improved about two times more than randomly assigned cases.

In Phase 1, Constantino and a team of academic, industrial, and clinical partners will implement the evidence-based buddy program with Springfield Psychological in the Philadelphia area.

Additionally, Phase 2 of matching patients with therapists is expected to scale to more than 50 sites in more than 30 states, based on Phase 1 dissemination science results.

“That will be one of the goals of our implementation project – to address some of the disparities in the quality of mental health that we see on the ground, which means that underrepresented patients from racial minorities and ethnic groups often receive less effective treatments,” says Constantino. “It’s a way to try to solve this problem.”

According to a press release from UMass Amherst, the PCORI Board of Trustees approved Constantino’s award following PCORI staff’s review of the business and programmatic aspects of the award.

“Even the most impactful findings from clinical research studies can take years to become widespread clinical practice,” PCORI says in announcing the award. “Reducing this delay and facilitating the path to adoption is the goal of this PCORI-funded project.”

“The beauty of PCORI’s mechanism is that they want to fund good science and then they also want to fund the clinical translation of that science,” Constantino says.

Psychotherapists are matched according to their previous clinical successes based on a method called the Treatment Outcome Package, which assesses 12 symptom domains or functional domains.

Here are the symptomatic areas or functional areas:

  • Depression
  • Quality of life
  • Mania
  • Panic or somatic anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Substance abuse
  • Social conflict
  • Sexual functioning
  • Sleep
  • suicidality
  • Violence
  • Operation at work

After a therapist asks 15 patients to complete TOP before and after treatment; The therapist’s strengths and weaknesses when dealing with the 12 domains are presented in a “report card”.

“There are a lot of sites in Refresh Mental Health that aren’t using the TOP yet, so in phase two we can really demonstrate what it’s like to go from A to Z if you’re a health network mentality who wants to start using our matching system,” says Constantino.

Ryan H. Bowman