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Research Highlight: NIH Initiative Expands Access to Resources for Early Psychosis Treatment and Research

The Early Psychosis Intervention Network (EPINET), a broad research initiative aimed at determining how to provide best treatment for individuals experiencing symptoms of early psychosis, continues to expand its reach by increasing access to resources for researchers, providers, and families. Among other efforts, the initiative is growing its network of research hubs and launched a new web portal. EPINET is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

The term psychosis describes conditions that affect the mind in which an individual experiences some loss of contact with reality. Left untreated, psychotic symptoms can disrupt school and work, strain family relations, lead to separation from friends, and worsen mental health problems. Research has shown that early treatment of psychosis symptoms increases the chance of successful recovery.

In 2008, NIMH launched the Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) initiative. RAISE research demonstrated the effectiveness of Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC), a multi-component treatment for early psychosis. CSC uses a recovery-oriented, team approach to treating early psychosis that promotes shared decision-making between specialists, the individual experiencing psychosis, and family members, who work together to create a personal treatment plan.

Individuals in the RAISE studies who received CSC stayed in treatment longer and experienced greater improvement in their symptoms, interpersonal relationships, quality of life, and involvement in work and school than those who received typical care. RAISE also demonstrated the feasibility of implementing CSC programs in community-based settings.

To build on the RAISE findings demonstrating the importance of CSC, NIMH launched EPINET in September 2019 and announced the funding of six research grants for EPINET studies. Through the awards, the initiative aimed to establish regional scientific hubs connected to multiple community-based CSC programs that endorse measurement-based early psychosis treatment, as well as a national data coordinating center. The initiative has now expanded to eight regional hubs in 17 states with 101 clinics that provide CSC.

The EPINET National Data Coordinating Center extends and supports the regional hubs’ work by integrating data obtained from the community-based CSC programs and supporting multi-site research to improve early psychosis care. Researchers will use the data collected through EPINET to develop models for the effective delivery of CSC services for early psychosis, thereby ensuring that people in CSC programs around the country get the best possible research-based care.

The EPINET web portal provides resources for early psychosis researchers, academic and community-based early psychosis care treatment programs, program administrators, individuals experiencing early psychosis, and families. A key feature is the EPINET Core Assessment Battery, which any CSC program for early psychosis can access. The portal will be built out further over time, with research and practice-based early psychosis treatment tools added as they are developed.

Individuals and families can find information and multiple resources for early psychosis on the EPINET web portal, as well as an interactive map to find EPINET clinics around the country.

Grants:

R01MH120588, R01MH120550, R01MH120555, R01MH120589, R01MH120599, R01MH120594, P50MH115846-A1, R01MH120597, 5U24MH120591

Research Highlight