UCLA to expand mental health services to community college students

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UCLA is expanding access to mental health services for community college students using a new scalable, cost-effective system of care.

The National Institute of Mental Health is funding UCLA’s ALACRITY center with a five-year, $12 million grant, said Kate Wolitzky-Taylor, program co-director and associate professor at the Anxiety Research Center. and depression. Michelle Craske, professor of psychology, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, is the other co-director.

Using a model of care developed by UCLA, members of the ALACRITY team will partner with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and East LA College to provide care for students through screening, treating and monitoring symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to the center. website.

Jocelyn Meza, assistant professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, said the center’s model of care offers tiered treatment programs in which students are assigned to an appropriate level option based on an initial assessment of mental health.

The project extends to UCLA’s Depression Grand Challenge, an initiative by Chancellor Gene Block to halve the impact of depression by 2050, Wolitzky-Taylor said.

David Miklowitz, professor of psychiatry, said ALACRITY’s tiered treatment methods complement traditional options such as psychotherapy and medication, which can be costly and undesirable for people seeking care.

Factors that can influence health, such as low-income and first-generation student status, make community college students particularly vulnerable to mental health issues, Meza said.

Daniel Eisenberg, professor of health policy and management, said community college students tend to have higher socioeconomic stressors, struggle more with food and housing security, and that their schools tend to provide fewer mental health services than four-year universities. Community colleges that manage to run counseling centers are usually understaffed, he added.

The first level of the center’s approach offers a self-directed digital program in which students learn skills to help prevent symptoms of depression and anxiety, such as changing negative thinking, coping with fears and improving mood , said Wolitzky-Taylor. The second level offers personalized weekly digital therapy modules with support from ELAC student coaches, she added.

In an emailed statement, Richard LeBeau, associate director of the Center for Anxiety and Depression Research, said ALACRITY trains peer coaches to keep students engaged with course content and help students to implement coping strategies in their daily lives by emphasizing open-ended questions, active listening, and interacting authentically.

The third tier offers traditional clinical care with an LACDMH provider, Wolitzky-Taylor said. Team members monitor student progress and adjust treatment strategies if a student does not show improvement, she added.

The ALACRITY team will lead several projects to optimize UCLA’s model of care for community college students, Wolitzky-Taylor said.

The lead project is evaluating the effectiveness of an algorithm developed by ALACRITY to determine level of care, Wolitzky-Taylor said. Unlike typical models for rating the severity of mental health symptoms, the algorithm takes into account many factors, including student demographics, experiences of discrimination, food and housing insecurity, social support, and life. adversity early in life, she added.

One project aims to increase student engagement, and another will improve ELAC’s peer coaching by evaluating whether matching students to coaches on race and ethnicity improves outcomes, Wolitzky said. – Taylor.

The latest project builds on the suicide prevention and risk management strategies of the UCLA model through a safety planning and risk management application, Wolitzky-Taylor said, adding that team members will examine factors that predict suicide risk using data from the main project.

The free app allows students to upload photos and videos that bring them joy, Meza said, adding that this content could address a lack of resources on campus, promote culturally appropriate care and provide a immediate intervention.

“If you think of someone who may be in real distress, and it’s nighttime, how are they going to get to a provider or a clinic? We need to act quickly and on time,” Meza said. “This application will really allow us to intervene at the right time.”

ALACRITY will also conduct student surveys to better understand the prevalence of anxiety and depression on community college campuses and quantify the use of mental health services among the student population, Eisenberg said.

“The survey attempts to lay the groundwork for future expansion of the program to other community colleges, to get a sense of the needs of various community colleges in the LA area, and to help those colleges advocate for more resources and new services like the STAND program (the model of care),” Eisenberg said.

Eisenberg said his team hopes to conduct the survey among community colleges in Los Angeles in the coming year. The ALACRITY team also hopes to work with policymakers to roll out UCLA’s model of care more broadly in the California Community College system by the end of the five-year grant, Wolitzky-Taylor said.

“This is a really exciting opportunity we are getting from the NIMH, to bring together leaders in the field to improve the effectiveness and implementation of a scalable model of treatment for anxiety and depression, which we know, is so prevalent, especially among college students, and even more so among community college students where their needs are typically unmet,” Wolitzky-Taylor said.

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