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Developing State Mental Health Services Research “Laboratories” for Policy Relevant Studies

NAMHC Concept Clearance


David Chambers, Ph.D.
Program Chief, Dissemination and Implementation Research Program
Services Research and Clinical Epidemiology Branch
Division of Services and Intervention Research


This initiative will stimulate collaborative state, agency, and academic research projects that use existing state data to address policy issues relevant to state or regional public mental health services.


A recent NAMHC Workgroup on Services Research and Clinical Epidemiology highlighted the need for research-practice partnerships to generate answers to questions of greatest relevance to patients, clinicians, and policymakers. The Road Ahead report, issued in May 2006, focused on the need for NIMH to be maximally responsive to emergent studies examining the impact of policy changes on national, state and local levels. Furthermore, the two regional meetings on science and service, hosted by NIMH, CMHS, and NASMHPD, highlighted the importance of connecting state agencies to experienced researchers to resolve issues that state agencies confront daily.

This initiative will solicit studies from state agencies and research collaborators to identify the impact of financial and workforce policy changes, as well as policies aimed at reducing costs, increasing quality of care and maximizing patient outcomes. Findings will be relevant to state agencies seeking to advance evidence-based policies for mental illness. Each applicant will be required to offer access to state data for use by other research project teams, while gaining access to the data supplied by other states within the initiative. Thus, this initiative will facilitate the creation of a research “laboratory,” in which pooled data will enable policy research in multiple systems. To ensure collaboration, each application will require two primary investigators: one from a state agency and one from a research institution. NIMH will help state-led researchers to address directly the most pressing questions of state systems and enable large comparison studies that can employ states as both experimental sites and matched controls.

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