Network will speed, streamline mental health research

December 03, 2010

SEATTLE--Ask anyone: There must be better ways to treat mental health problems. Treatment hinges on research. But traditional research is slow--and so expensive that it can't even ask many pressing questions in mental health. And findings from academic settings may not apply to patients or clinicians in the real world of health care.

That's why the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is funding the Mental Health Research Network. It's a population-based effort to make mental health research faster, less expensive, and more relevant to the real world. This network will become a resource for mental health researchers who want to make prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and dissemination of results more effective and efficient.

NIMH has awarded approximately $10.5 million over three years to a multi-site team led by Gregory E. Simon, MD, MPH, at Group Health Research Institute. The grant is to create the Network: a diverse data resource for mental health researchers who want to make prevention, diagnosis, treatment, dissemination, and policy more effective and efficient. To do so, the Network will speed and streamline the research process itself.

To boost its statistical power, the Network will draw on extensive electronic medical data from 10 not-for-profit health care systems that are part of the HMO Research Network. Together, these 10 health systems include 10 million people in 12 states.

"By studying these diverse populations, we hope to learn more quickly and efficiently what causes mental disorders and what works--and what doesn't--in mental health care," said Dr. Simon, a Group Health psychiatrist and Group Health Research Institute senior investigator. "We hope to break down the barriers between research and real-world health care delivery--and take what we learn about what works best for which patients and apply it to tailor care better to individual patients,"

Mental health disorders affect people from every age, ethnic, and socioeconomic group. Finding the best methods to detect, treat, and prevent these disorders will require large studies on populations that are as diverse as are the people with the disorders.

These 10 systems are involved in the Network:Health system leaders and external researchers will be involved in identifying research questions and implementing research findings into practice. The first four Mental Health Research Network projects will study:Future research will use existing computerized records to get information on the effectiveness and safety of different mental health services. The Network will also help identify participants for clinical trials of mental health treatments so that clinical trials will be more efficient and more representative of the U.S. population.
Some of the funding for the Mental Health Research Network is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, commonly known as the 2009 stimulus package or recovery act.

Group Health Research Institute

Founded in 1947, Group Health Cooperative is a Seattle-based, consumer-governed, nonprofit health care system. Group Health Research Institute changed its name from Group Health Center for Health Studies on September 8, 2009. Since 1983, the Institute has conducted nonproprietary public-interest research on preventing, diagnosing, and treating major health problems. Government and private research grants provide its main funding.

Group Health Research Institute

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