Collaborative Efforts Improve Mental Health and Substance Abuse Care for Veterans
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VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System

Last year the Center for Clinical Management Research’s Mental Health Services Research unit, along with researchers from the Mental Health Services Outcomes & Translation section of the U-M Department of Psychiatry, moved to adjoining facilities at the NCRC. Among its research units, CCMR includes a cadre of investigators who make up their Mental Health Services Research unit, which partners with the Mental Health Services Outcomes & Translation (MHSOT) section of the U-M Department of Psychiatry to conduct research and evaluations related to improving care for individuals with mental health and substance abuse concerns.

A VA Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Center of Excellence for more than 15 years, CCMR currently receives over $18 million of extramural research funding annually. This past year CCMR transitioned from a Center of Excellence to a Center of Innovation (COIN), as part of a competitive VA HSR&D Center renewal process. The COIN initiative seeks to build on the past successes of HSR&D research centers while providing more effective mechanisms and incentives to ensure that research has the greatest possible impact on VHA policies, health care practices, and health outcomes for Veterans.

“We are very excited to transition our current Center of Excellence to a Center of Innovation,” says Eve A. Kerr, M.D., M.P.H., CCMR Director and a Professor of Internal Medicine in the Medical School. “With this designation, HSR&D has recognized CCMR and its researchers for their exceptional track record of conducting research that makes a difference in the lives of Veterans.” [pullquote align=”right”]“As a COIN, we will continue to seek innovative solutions to common and costly clinical management challenges facing our nation’s Veterans.” -Dr. Eve A. Kerr[/pullquote]

CCMR will receive $5 million over five years to support their center, which combines the expertise of more than 40 scientists and 100 staff from the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the U-M. CCMR is the largest public partner of IHPI, and moved to the NCRC campus in January, 2013.  As a Center of Innovation, CCMR scientists will focus on three critical research areas central to enhancing quality and value in health care: promoting patient-centered and personalized decision making; improving safety and outcomes for the most vulnerable and high-risk patients; and enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of patient self-management and treatment engagement.

More specifically, as part of the COIN, CCMR’s researchers will have the opportunity to further develop work in areas critical to Veteran health care, including: personalized decision-making tools to help Veterans choose care that is right for them; patient-centered measures of quality that promote appropriate care; patient safety initiatives that decrease infections and other adverse outcomes in the hospital; programs to identify Veterans at risk of suicide and enhance patient engagement in care; and innovative approaches to improve patient self-management, increase physical activity, and decrease obesity.

In addition to a large amount of extramural research funding, this unit receives significant support from VA operational partners to conduct evaluations on how to improve care for Veterans with serious mental illnesses, as part of the Serious Mental Illness Treatment, Resource and Evaluation Center (SMITREC). Many MHSOT and CCMR mental health services research efforts are complementary and inform each other; all VA mental health investigators are also U-M faculty. The close proximity of the U-M and VA researchers enhances intellectual exchange and provides opportunities for collaboration, which will ultimately lead to increased productivity to the benefit of patients with mental illnesses.

“The opportunities for interactions within the multiple scientific disciplines at the NCRC enhance and complement the cutting-edge research and evaluation work of the Department of Veterans Affairs and U-M,” says Frederic C. Blow, PhD, MHSOT, the Addiction Research Center (UMARC), and CCMR Mental Health Services Research Director and Professor of Psychiatry.  In his roles as director of two U-M research units within the Department of Psychiatry, and director for mental health research within CCMR, Dr. Blow will be seeking to further expand these collaborations in a new joint VA/UM program to be housed within CCMR and IHPI.


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