UB partnership with local mental health care organization seeks to improve outcomes in rural communities

Release Date: June 5, 2020

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Photo of UB researcher Catherine Dulmus.
“Our innovative and bold partnership gathers a ‘dream team’ of community-based treatment providers, social work and public health scientists to address some of the most complex public health problems of our lifetime. ”
Catherine N. Dulmus, professor of social work
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo School of Social Work and the university’s Department of Biostatistics will partner with a local behavioral health care collaborative over the next two years creating a data warehouse ─ a system that collects and analyzes information ─ that will improve outcomes and reduce costs for mental health and substance use treatment services in the underserved rural areas of New York State.

Integrity Partners for Behavioral Health IPA (IPBH) works with 14 local governments and 11 community-based organizations in Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Genesee, Livingston, Niagara, Ontario, Orleans, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins and Wayne counties.

Their strategic collaboration with UB is funded by a $1 million grant jointly provided by the New York State Office of Mental Health and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

“Our innovative and bold partnership gathers a ‘dream team’ of community-based treatment providers, social work and public health scientists to address some of the most complex public health problems of our lifetime,” says Catherine N. Dulmus, a professor in UB’s School of Social Work and the project’s principal investigator.

“Leveraging electronic health records data, our team will be able to scientifically address mental health disparities in rural communities, as well as offer data-guided recommendations for both high-quality and value-based care.”

Dulmus will work with co-principal investigators, Gregory E. Wilding, professor and chair of UB’s Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, and David A. Patterson Silver Wolf, an associate professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, who is an expert in addiction treatment programs in community-based service settings. Jihnhee Yu, associate professor in UB’s Department of Biostatistics, will serve as a co-investigator.

The data warehouse is at the project’s center.

Where a database provides indexing of and accessibly to information, a data warehouse, which includes elements of database design, provides a unified view of information from multiple sources.

Steve Harvey, IPBH’s chief executive officer, says there is unfortunately a growing need among rural communities for services that address mental health, substance use, and opioid use disorders.

“This partnership allows Integrity Partners to leverage our internal resources with the world-class expertise of UB’s School of Social Work and its Department of Biostatistics,” he says. “Partnering with UB is potentially a game-changer for rural communities across the country that can elevate the work of rural providers within IPBH’s own network and similar networks across the nation.”

IPBH and UB will use data obtained from the closed cases of partner sites over three years beginning in 2017.

From that foundation, they’ll create the data warehouse; characterize and examine the effectiveness of services; develop treatment profiles; launch deeper investigations into those service providers with high success rates; and share their findings.

“There is a clear need to improve access to mental health and substance use treatment services in these areas,” says Dulmus. “Research shows how the extreme shortage of mental health providers in rural America makes it difficult for individuals to receive proper treatment.”

Over 6.8 million people living in the country’s rural areas have a mental illness. That’s 19% of the country’s total rural population, according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

In addition to the high rate of mental illness, the rate of substance use disorders, specifically opioid overdoses, has risen in rural communities. In New York, the counties with the highest rates of unique clients admitted to treatment for opioids were mostly the state’s rural counties.

“I’m looking forward to IPBH and UB combining our resources on the important work necessary to address the large mental health disparities found between rural and urban counties,” says Harvey.

Media Contact Information

Bert Gambini
News Content Manager
Arts and Humanities, Economics, Social Sciences, Social Work
Tel: 716-645-5334
gambini@buffalo.edu