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Citizen Advocates picked for research team

Tasked by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study rural behavioral health care

Deceil Moore is the interdisciplinary research leader for Citizen Advocates and part of a team targeting challenges faced by rural behavioral health care providers and their patients. (Photo provided)

MALONE — Citizen Advocates was chosen by a highly respected national health care foundation to be part of a research team focusing on the challenges faced by rural behavioral health providers and the individuals they serve.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded Citizen Advocates and Syracuse University a $300,000 research grant to study and propose solutions for enhancing behavioral health care in rural areas. Rural behavioral health providers serve a population that is uniquely vulnerable, and they often face hurdles connecting the people they support with the appropriate level of care or services.

In many cases, the services some individuals require extend beyond a clinic or medical setting. Access to housing, reliable transportation, job training or food security can be obstacles for someone recovering from an addiction or mental health diagnosis. These challenges are more pronounced in areas like the North Country.

“Rural areas are at a disadvantage when it comes to the pace at which health care is changing,” said James Button, chief operations officer at Citizen Advocates. “We saw this grant as an opportunity to first study the problems we face specific to mental health and addiction treatment in rural areas, and second, to take a leadership role in implementing transformative solutions that improve the health of our community in such a way that can be shared throughout the state and country.”

The project is led by three interdisciplinary research leaders: Deceil Moore, Citizen Advocates; Lynn Warner, Ph.D, School of Social Welfare at University of Albany; and Matthew Spitzmueller, Ph.D, School of Social Work, Syracuse University.

In the first phase of this three-year program, the research team will meet with individuals to gather data regarding the experience and practical needs in seeking out behavioral health services. In addition, the team will interview leaders and front-line providers to get a true sense of how they are adapting to health care reforms. Organizations will also be asked to identify meaningful data that demonstrates quality of care for those they support.

Phase two of the project is putting the research into action by setting measurable goals to show outcomes in care are improving, and there is greater collaboration among organizations focused on improving overall community health. This means providers are partnering to deliver clinical services, and also meet other critical needs like transportation, job training or housing that are essential for someone recovering from a mental health or addiction diagnosis.

At the conclusion of the study, the team will connect with health, behavioral health and social service organization leaders in rural areas of New York to share best practices. In addition, the results will be shared with county and state government officials to inform policy decisions, and those focused on further research around health reform.

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