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Credit: Zach Sheldon

Penn researchers just received $6.4 million to create a center for research on mental health, according to a press release by the Perelman School of Medicine. 

The National Institute of Mental Health grant will allow the researchers to create the Penn Advanced Laboratories for Accelerating the Reach and Impact of Treatments for Youth and Adults with Mental Illness.

The center will use behavioral economics and implementation science, the study of how to promote “the use of evidence-based practices in community care settings,” to reform mental health service delivery, according to the press release. 

The Penn ALACRITY Center will involve collaboration between two Perelman School programs: the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research and the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics. It will be the second NIMH-funded ALACRITY Center.

Rinad Beidas, an assistant professor of psychiatry and one of the three researchers leading the Penn center, said in the release that the long-standing relationship between Penn’s CMHPSR and the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health is “integral to the success” of the initiative.

CMHPSR receives more funding from the National Institutes of Health than all but one other American psychiatry department. On its website, the center states that its goal is “to improve the quality and performance of behavioral health for public sector clients through research, evaluation, and education.”

The center is slated to launch three projects to improve mental health treatment in publicly funded systems. The three projects aim to increase the rate at which newly diagnosed adults take prescribed antidepressants, to promote the use of evidence-based practices by one-on-one aides to students with autism and to identify ways to incentivize therapists to use evidence-based practices.