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Built to Serve

Discovery, Dissemination and Implementation of Greater Mental Health Resources

The Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at UC San Diego is committed to tackling challenges, enhancing education and advancing access to public mental health.

In a world of ever-evolving technologies, there is a continuous demand for models that facilitate collaboration and the effective implementation of mental health tools. These models should be tailored to individual needs and should align with lived experiences as a form of expertise.

Elizabeth Eikey, Ph.D., assistant professor, is working with multiple counties and cities across California as part of the Help@Hand project in collaboration with the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) to not only understand community public mental health needs, but also to align technologies with populations.

Help@Hand is one of the first projects to explore how to implement technologies such as mental health apps within county and city services for particular populations through a collaboration among government agencies, researchers, technology vendors, CalMHSA and more.

Elizabeth Eikey, Ph.D.

“We hope that others can build on this work by learning from the successes and areas of improvement in order to best leverage technologies to better support people’s mental health and well-being.”

– Elizabeth Eikey, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

“This project is not just about the impact of these technologies; one of its goals and greatest outcomes is the learnings,” said Eikey. “The learnings will inform the ways we support collaborative efforts and the ways future technologies are integrated into existing mental health support with the goal of providing more people with the right support at the right time to improve their well-being.”

The project began as an innovation project aimed at learning to support mental health through technologies outside of traditional county services. Since then, they have partnered with counties and University of California campuses in Southern California to conduct needs assessments, explore technologies, pilot them, and even conduct full scale implementations to understand the experience and impact of the technologies, their wrap-around services and their contexts. This included different populations and settings, including the deaf and hard of hearing community in Riverside, psychiatry clients and patients in Orange County, older adults with digital literacy courses in Marin and more.

While technologies are constantly changing and evolving, models for how to collaborate and implement appropriate tools that are aligned with people’s needs and honor their lived experiences as expertise are needed.

“As more and more people need mental health support, these technologies may offer supplemental support, increase access to mental health care, promote early detection of mental health symptoms, and reduce barriers,” said Eikey.

“We hope that others can build on this work by learning from the successes and areas of improvement in order to best leverage technologies to better support people’s mental health and well-being.”

Cultivating New Generations of Diverse Public Health Professionals

Staff from Westside Infant-Family Network and Venice Family Clinic at a community food drive event to address food insecurity within the community. Photo taken by Venice Family Clinic.

Professor Todd Gilmer, Ph.D., and the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health partnered with nine community-based organizations and communities in Los Angeles County for a five-year community capacity building project called Innovation 2 (INN 2).

The project has several goals including: providing support for developing community leadership and fostering interagency and community collaborations to empower the community; expanding the availability of resources and support to address community needs; and reaching broader populations who have historically been disenfranchised, and disinterested in directly engaging with mental health service agencies.

“There is significant interest in using health care systems to address health equity. One strategy involves directing payment for specific services to address health disparities. However, approaches such as these are primarily top down and health care centric,” said Gilmer. “In contrast, partnering with community-based organizations to assess community needs, and having them design and deliver interventions is a community-centered approach that leverages existing trust and invests directly in communities to build local capacity through empowerment and relationship building.”

“There is significant value to investing in prevention and promotion initiatives which consider the social determinants of health and well-being from a trauma-informed perspective,” said Kimberly Center, INN 2 program evaluation manager.

Collaboration is key.

Prevention programs which are community-centered and incorporate trauma-informed care, much like INN 2, are important because they have the potential for the greatest reach and influence within an underrepresented community. These programs can increase trauma and mental health awareness of available resources and concrete support within their community, and can help provide spaces to foster connection and other protective factors, which can help prevent the development of a mental health disorder.

Each community partner worked with a primary lead agency, which acted as a backbone for coordination, contract requirements and relationship in tandem with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.

Partnerships conducted more than 30,000 capacity-building activities with more than 1.4 million community members. Community-based organizations made more than 100,000 successful referrals among 12,600 community members. The most frequent referrals were for basic needs, including food, housing and mental health services. Basic resources helped stabilize individuals and families in times of need and built awareness and trust between community members.

“Participants felt these conditions led to profound changes in their well-being and the development of sustainable coping and resiliency strategies,” said Center. “About half of INN 2 participants with a pair of assessments reported a meaningful improvement in connectedness with the community and resiliency or maintained high connectedness and resiliency while engaged in INN 2 group activities and programming.”

INN 2 reflects a restoration in the Southern California community and demonstrates a commitment to longevity. The project reported significant impacts for partnered organization staff, which encourages a new generation of public health professionals while cultivating understanding and cross-community connections.

Local Southern California community-based organizations and communities included in the INN 2 project:

  • Alma Family Services and its six primary partnering organizations, supporting community members in East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights.
  • Children’s Institute, Inc. and its seven primary partnering organizations, supporting community members in South Los Angeles.
  • Children’s Clinic of Antelope Valley and its five primary partnering organizations, supporting community members in Lancaster and Palmdale.
  • Mental Health America and its 13 community partners, supporting community members in Long Beach.
  • Para los Niños and its eight primary partnering organizations, supporting community members in East Los Angeles.
  • City of Pasadena Public Health and its 13 community partners, supporting community members in Pasadena.
  • Safe Places for Youth and its 10 primary partnering organizations, supporting community members in Venice and Mar Vista.
  • The Children’s Clinic and its 32 community partners, supporting community members in the City of Long Beach.
  • Westside Infant Family Network and its 12 community partners, supporting community members in Santa Monica and Venice, Inglewood and Culver City.

Public health is a commitment to the community. Tested frameworks for prevention, sustainability and innovation are applied to serve the greater good. Diverse arrays of leaders, students and stakeholders come together to pool their expertise, share their resources and improve outcomes. Collaboration is key.

Members of the Westside Infant Family Network partnership at a back to school community event. Community members received free books as part of the community building and social connectedness. Photo taken by Westside Infant Family Network.

Members of the Children’s Clinic of Antelope Valley and Wraparound Engagement Desert Outreach partnership in Lancaster preparing bags with informational flyers and a meal to distribute to the community during their Frosty Festival event. Photo taken by Children’s Clinic of Antelope Valley.