February 15, 2008

Grant bolsters VKC mental health program

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Mindy Schuster

Grant bolsters VKC mental health program

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) is receiving $640,000 over the next three years from the John Merck Fund to facilitate a mental health treatment program for adolescents and young adults who have both a psychiatric disorder and intellectual or other developmental disability.

Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., the center's director, said the need for mental health treatment programs in Tennessee, and across the country, is “monumental.”

“Approximately 40 percent of adults with intellectual disabilities also show severe mental health challenges that impede their everyday activities,” said Dykens, a professor of Psychology and Human Development.

VKC is partnering with Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Department of Psychiatry to staff an outpatient clinic that will operate one day a week beginning this spring.

The clinic will include a psychiatric nurse, a social worker, a behavior analyst and a psychiatrist.

“Over the past year, we have increasingly been called upon to serve individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental health concerns, and now we can bring a trained, dedicated team to do this important work,” said Michael Cull, M.S.N., administrative director for Outpatient Psychiatry, and co-director of Vanderbilt's Center of Excellence (COE) for Children in State Custody.

Dykens said there are few such clinics operating nationally, so a major goal will be to provide model care that can be replicated across the country.

“Our goal is to institute a clinic that will be a world leader in the care to persons with intellectual disabilities and mental health concerns,” she said. “By using the UCEDD's national network to distribute our model to every state, we can lead the way in upgrading services for a group that continues to be among the most underserved in the country.”

The John Merck Fund fosters innovative advocacy and problem solving in the fields of Developmental Disabilities, Environment, Reproductive Health, Human Rights and Job Opportunities. In 2006, the fund awarded 252 grants totaling $14,073,280.