New Funds for Community Behavioral Health Projects

Heinz Chapel with pink flowers in the foreground

Pitt’s Center for Interventions to Improve Community Health (CiTECH) recently awarded more than $100,000 from the Office of the Provost for projects designed to improve behavior health outcomes in local neighborhoods. Learn about the four projects:

The CHURCH Project—which stands for Congregations as Healers Uniting to Restore Community Health—will develop and pilot an intervention that takes place in the context of African American churches. “Because of issues like stigma, mistrust and absence of insurance, many Black people rely on informal church support for emotional problems, rather than visiting mental health clinics,” said John Wallace, the David E. Epperson Professor of Social Work and co-investigator. The goal is to increase the mental health awareness, knowledge and skills of the clergy, who then in turn can help parishioners. The project is a partnership between Pitt’s School of Social Work, faculty members in the Department of Psychiatry and leaders from Homewood Community Ministries.

Marlo Perry, assistant research professor in the School of Social Work, will collaborate with Wesley Family Services and the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth, and Families to pilot Intensive Family Coaching (IFC) with families of young children involved with the child welfare system. IFC is a home-based intervention that helps young children with emotional and behavioral challenges, as well as their caregivers who may struggle with discipline issues. The project also seeks to increase collaboration between the child welfare and behavioral health systems.

Child maltreatment can lead to mental health issues, trouble in school and other problems. Professionals in Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) work together to investigate abuse and provide resources for victims of child abuse and their families. But CACs in rural areas often have limited resources. Their teams have members from a variety of disciplines—police, advocates and child welfare workers. To help a team like this work more effectively, Elizabeth McGuier, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Psychiatry, will work with the CAC in McKean County on the use of TeamSTEPPS, an evidence-based intervention to improve teamwork

The final project will focus on improving overall community mental health and reducing teen violence in the City of Pittsburgh’s Fineview and Perry Hilltop neighborhoods. Associate Professor of Social Work Mary Ohmer will oversee a training program that focuses on collective efficacy by facilitating trusting relationships between younger and older residents and increasing the residents’ ability to safely intervene to address neighborhood problems. Ohmer will be working with members of the Perry Hilltop Citizens Councils.