FDU professor receives grant to fund mental health services in primary care for North Jersey’s underserved

TEANECK, NJ (July 16, 2014)— Robert McGrath, a professor of psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University, has received a two-year grant totaling nearly $350,000 from the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) for a program that will provide mental healthcare for underserved populations in northeastern New Jersey.
The grant is a collaboration with the North Hudson Community Action Corporation (NHCAC), a healthcare organization with sites in Bergen and Hudson Counties that cater to people without health insurance. The grant from HRSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will support training for psychology graduate students. This is the only program HRSA funded in New Jersey this year.
“The money will be used to create a program that is the first of its kind in New Jersey,” says McGrath, a professor of psychology at FDU and the academic director of the M.S. Program in Clinical Psychopharmacology. “Our program, called Integrated Care for the Underserved of Northeastern New Jersey, will place three FDU clinical psychology doctoral students and two psychologist supervisors into the NHCAC primary care centers on a part-time basis.” 
Research suggests that 50-80% of individuals who are seen in primary care settings (pediatrics, family practice, etc.) demonstrate mental or behavioral health problems, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc. These are problems that are difficult to deal with in that setting. Integrated primary care has emerged as an attempt to deal with this need. It involves placing behavioral health professionals in the primary care setting, so they can help the patient right there in the primary care visit.
“Integrated primary care is a treatment model specifically designed for meeting the needs of those disadvantaged populations who typically have no access to mental or behavioral health services, in a setting where they are comfortable,” says McGrath.
Where traditional mental health involves regular appointments with a mental health professional that usually last 45 minutes, the integrated care treatment may only involve a couple of sessions, each of only 15-30 minutes. Studies suggest that about 70-80% of people demonstrate improvement with this brief treatment model. Of those who need more care, they’re also more willing to consider seeing someone for more intensive treatment.

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