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2019 Autumn Inside NIMH

Inside NIMH Autumn Edition


Welcome to the latest edition of Inside NIMH! We publish Inside NIMH in conjunction with each meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), which advises the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Director of NIMH on all policies and activities relating to the conduct and support of mental health research, research training, and other programs of the Institute. I hope you find this edition interesting and helpful. I also invite you to check out the NIMH website for regular updates on timely topics, and to follow me on Twitter (@NIMH Director).


Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institute of Mental Health

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I. NIMH Director’s Updates

September is #SuicidePreventionMonth. A top priority at @NIMHgov is to conduct research aimed at reversing the increasing national suicide rate. The goal of our efforts is not only to identify at-risk individuals, but to help them improve their quality of life and to prevent suicide attempts. To learn how NIMH-supported research is helping save lives and reduce the rising suicide rate, follow, share, and be a part of the conversation on Twitter , Facebook , YouTube and LinkedIn. To learn about behaviors that may be a sign that someone is thinking about suicide, visit the NIMH Suicide Prevention page. #SPM19 #BeThe1To

News to Know from NIMH

  • Director’s Statement on Diversity: Diversity is the key to excellent science, fostering innovation and increasing the likelihood that research outcomes will benefit all. When the Director of NIH, Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., announced his commitment to change the culture and climate of biomedical research to create an inclusive and diverse workforce, I immediately stood by this pledge. I recently issued a statement describing how I expect and enforce an even playing field for scientists of diverse backgrounds when I evaluate invitations to attend and present at events. I encourage scientific leaders across the biomedical enterprise to support all of the talented minds engaged in research.
  • NIMH Strategic Planning Efforts: NIMH uses its Strategic Plan for Research to guide the Institute towards achieving its mission. To keep pace with scientific progress, the plan is updated every five years. NIMH leadership and staff drafted the 2020 NIMH Strategic Plan for Research and shared the draft Plan with members of the NAMHC. NAMHC members will provide feedback and have a discussion at the 2019 September Council meeting. NIMH plans to publish a Request for Information via the Federal Register to solicit public feedback. The Institute will publish the new NIMH Strategic Plan for Research in 2020.
  • Outreach Spotlight: NIMH is evolving its approach to outreach to focus on broader education, dissemination, and promotion of research-based mental health information. As a part of this effort, NIMH has developed a new Education and Awareness portal on the NIMH website with tools and resources designed for and dedicated to outreach. In addition, NIMH has launched an e-newsletter, Discover NIMH, which provides free education and outreach materials to help raise awareness about mental illnesses and the importance of mental health research (sign up here to receive Discover NIMH). NIMH will continue to provide stakeholders access to NIMH scientific information and patient education materials related to screening and diagnosis, treatment, and clinical trials. All of these new efforts will replace the Outreach Partnership Program (OPP), which will end in April 2020 when the OPP contracts conclude. Read the recent Institute Update, NIMH Deploys New Strategy for Outreach, to learn more about these exciting efforts.
  • NIMH Clinical Research Toolbox: NIMH recently developed the NIMH Clinical Research Toolbox to serve as an information repository for NIMH staff and the clinical research community, particularly those receiving NIMH funding. The Toolbox contains resources such as NIH and NIMH policy and guidance documents, templates, sample forms, links to additional resources, and other materials to assist clinical investigators in the development and conduct of high-quality clinical research studies.
  • Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Updates: On July 23, 2019, the IACC hosted a public workshop on the housing needs of people on the autism spectrum. Speakers provided unique perspectives on housing issues and presented a variety of housing models to help individuals with autism. On July 24, 2019, the IACC held a full committee meeting. Topics included a community continuum of care model for autism, as well as racial and ethnic disparities in services for those with autism. The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (Autism CARES Act of 2019), a bill to reauthorize the IACC to continue for another five years, passed in the House of Representatives and is under consideration by the Senate.

Updates and Announcements from NIH

  • NIH-wide Initiatives
    • All of Us Research Program
      • The All of Us Research Program awarded a combined $9.1 million in initial funding to two organizations to further the program’s extensive community engagement efforts. HCM Strategists, of Washington, D.C., and the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, aim to develop innovative approaches to educate communities and support enduring relationships with program participants. They will work with communities to develop engagement experiences that are scalable, customizable, and available for use by the program’s national consortium.
      • The All of Us Research Program issued a Request for Information (RFI) to collect additional input from the consultation and engagement with Tribal Nations. The program recognizes the importance of collaborations with Tribal Nations to facilitate the inclusion of American Indian and Alaska Native communities, which have been historically underrepresented in biomedical research. Responses will be accepted through October 31, 2019 and must be submitted via email to
      • Eric Dishman is transitioning from his role as Director of the NIH All of Us Research Program to become the programs’ Chief Innovation Officer. As NIH conducts a nationwide search for a new Director of the program, Mr. Dishman will continue to lead All of Us into its next phase.
    • BRAIN Initiative through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative
      • On August 19, 2019, the Neuroethics Working Group (NEWG) of the NIH BRAIN Initiative held its eighth meeting. Topics included strategic science communication and engagement, and NIH BRAIN Initiative investigators presented research on the ethical implications of advancements in neurotechnology and neuroscience. A videocast of the NEWG meeting is available online.
      • On August 20, 2019, the NIH BRAIN Initiative Multi-Council Working Group (MCWG) convened to discuss the current state of the BRAIN Initiative and its future. The meeting featured updates on BRAIN Initiative programs from experts at other federal agencies, NIH, and the extramural community. NIH program staff presented a portfolio analysis on cell census and cell- and circuit-specific tools. A videocast of the MCWG meeting is available online.
    • HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-TermSM) Initiative: Through the NIH Heal Initiative, NIH is awarding 12 grants to the Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN) to support research on quality addiction treatment for opioid use disorder in criminal justice settings nationwide. The awards, totaling an estimated $155 million, will support a multi-year innovation network, including ten research institutions and two centers that will provide supportive infrastructure. JCOIN will establish a national network of investigators collaborating with justice and behavioral health stakeholders to investigate promising interventions and other approaches to improve the capacity of the justice system to respond to the opioid crisis.
  • NIH Leadership News
    • On September 3, 2019, Debara L. Tucci, M.D., M.S., M.B.A., assumed the post of Director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Dr. Tucci comes to NIH from Duke University where she was professor of surgery and Director of the cochlear implant program in the Division of Head and Neck Surgery and Communication Sciences. NIMH welcomes Dr. Tucci to the NIH.
    • On July 29, 2019, Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., retired as Director of the National Eye Institute (NEI) after nearly 20 years of leadership. As NEI Director, Dr. Sieving promoted a new strategic focus for the agency that helped to elevate NEI to a world-class example of what publicly funded, cutting-edge scientific research can achieve. While NIH conducts a national search, NEI Deputy Director, Santa Tumminia, Ph.D., is serving as Acting Director.
    • On September 30, 2019, Ann K. Cashion, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., will retire as Acting Director of the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), a position she held for the past year. Since 2013, Dr. Cashion also served as NINR Scientific Director, where she has established a thriving intramural research program focused on advancing symptom science. NIH will soon open a search for a new Director of NINR. With Dr. Cashion’s departure, NIH Principal Director Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., will serve as the NINR Acting Director. Jessica M. Gill, Ph.D., R.N., current NINR Deputy Scientific Director, will serve as NINR Acting Scientific Director.
    • On October 3, 2019, Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S., will retire as Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). Dr. Birnbaum served as NIEHS Director for 10 years. Under her leadership, NIEHS became a world leader in toxicology and environmental health research, and NIEHS-supported science laid the foundation for health policy and safety standards. While NIH conducts a national search, NIEHS Deputy Director, Richard Woychik, Ph.D., will serve as NIEHS Acting Director.
    • We are sad to announce the passing of Donald Lindberg, M.D., on August 16, 2019. Dr. Lindberg served as the Director of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) for more than 30 years. He was one of the longest-serving leaders at NIH and continued his service as Director Emeritus of NLM after his retirement in March 2015. Because of his pioneering work in applying computer technology to biomedical research and health information, he was a national leader for the intersection of computers and medicine. Dr. Lindberg will be remembered for his outstanding leadership, and his vision and passion for transforming access to medical information.

Budget Overview

  • Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Budget: The Appropriations Act of 2019 (Public Law No. 115-245) provides funds through September 30, 2019. The law provides $1.870 billion to NIMH (amount includes 21st Century Cures funding), representing a 6.6 percent increase over the FY 2018 appropriation. NIMH anticipates awarding approximately 700 competing research project grants (RPGs) in FY 2019, with an estimated success rate of 26 percent as shown in the figure below. In accordance with the NIH Next Generation Research Initiative (NGRI), NIMH estimates funding 86 early stage investigators (ESIs) and more than 331 at-risk investigators.
    NIMH Applications, Awards, and Success Rates for Research Project Grants
    Fiscal Year Applications Direct Awards Cures Awards Success Rate
    2014 2830 548 0 19
    2015 2480 507 0 20
    2016 2568 587 0 23
    2017 2735 571 0 21
    2018 2701 589 23 23
    2019 Est 2674 678 23 26
  • Outlook for FY 2020: FY 2020 will most likely begin under a continuing resolution (CR). As in the past, while operating under a CR, non-competing grants will be awarded at levels below the committed amounts, likely at 90 percent. Currently, the House passed HR2740; this bill provides a total of $41.1 billion for NIH, an increase of $2 billion above the FY 2019 enacted level and $6.9 billion above the President’s budget request.

NIMH Staff News

  • NIMH is pleased to announce that Andrea Beckel-Mitchener, Ph.D. was selected as the Director of the NIMH Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity (ODWD), where she previously held the role of Acting Director. Dr. Beckel-Mitchener also serves as the Director of the Office of Rural Mental Health Research (ORMHR). In these roles, she will lead NIMH’s research activities related to mental health disparities, women’s mental health, sexual and gender minority mental health, and mental health in rural and other underserved communities. In addition, Dr. Beckel-Mitchener will lead the development and maintenance of a diverse, multidisciplinary mental health research workforce in the United States through mechanisms that meet the training needs of underrepresented groups.