UC Davis Health System officials and California Senate leader Darrell Steinberg today announced the founding of a unique academic research center designed to improve mental health in California and serve as a national model for advancing innovative research in neuroscience, as well as the prevention of and early interventions in mental illness.
Known as the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence at UC Davis, the $7.5 million project will become the university’s hub for bringing together its wide-ranging research, education, clinical care and community engagement as they relate to neuroscience, mental health and public-health improvement.
The new center will be located on the university’s Sacramento campus. It will complement a similar, $7.5 million center that is being established in Southern California at UCLA.
“Mental health is an issue that knows no partisan lines. Its impacts and suffering escape no race, class, gender, age, or sexual orientation. It affects every other agenda we address in the Legislature.” Steinberg said. “Having dedicated behavioral-health centers in the state will be the catalyst for improving our understanding of the human mind and finding answers for individuals and their families.”
Grant funding for the two centers was approved by the state’s Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission earlier this year. UC Davis plans call for researchers to explore everything from telehealth delivery of behavioral health care and the economics of prevention to how medical and mental-health services might be better integrated in clinical settings.
“This center is so promising because it enables UC Davis to work from its core strengths in brain research, new technologies for clinical care, reducing health disparities and effectively engaging communities,” said Frederick Meyers, vice dean of UC Davis School of Medicine and who will serve as director of the new center. “We plan to closely measure and evaluate our research results so that we can identify and translate into practice the best ways to achieve behavioral-health improvement.”
Meyers said the UC Davis center will be a catalyst for developing more research expertise in behavioral health, as well as better techniques and training to address wellness, recovery and resilience to mental illness. The university plans to partner in its research efforts with other health organizations and government-related institutions, including counties throughout Northern California.
The new center’s leadership team, which includes Cameron Carter, a UC Davis professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences specializing in the early diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia and other cognitive mental disorders, will also study community programs, alternatives to hospitalization, shared services with jails, hospitals and courts, and identify new approaches to reducing mental-health stigmas.
“The center of excellence in behavioral health is one product of the work we started many years ago with Proposition 63 and the state’s Mental Health Services Act,” said Steinberg, a longtime leader on mental-health issues. “Like the UC Davis’ MIND Institute, which has earned international recognition for its work in autism, the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence at UC Davis can bring together in one place the academic skills, talent and experience that we need to address some of the most challenging problems that many California families are facing.”