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Overview of Our Center

Mission, Goals, & Strategic Plan


In collaboration with DMH and its academic and community partners, the Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center (SPARC) provides state-of-the-art and recovery-informed research, training, and systemic interventions to enhance the mental and behavioral health of all citizens in Massachusetts and beyond, and to guide leaders in the development of enlightened public health policies that support the treatment and prevention of mental illness and addiction across the life span.

To conduct research and develop knowledge to:
– Improve services for people with mental health conditions
– Improve the quality of life and promote the recovery of people with or at risk of mental health conditions, and their families.

To disseminate knowledge through a range of activities that include teaching, publishing, speaking, consulting, and training.

Strategic Plan
January 2013 marked the launch of the SPARC Strategic Plan. Developed by the SPARC faculty and staff, in consultation with Department of Psychiatry and MA DMH leadership, this three-year plan is a roadmap to realizing our vision of helping people living with mental health challenges lead happy and productive lives.
View the Executive Summary of the SPARC Strategic Plan


Grant Funding Portfolio


Highlights of Fiscal Year 2016 include:

– 7.4 million dollars in new research funding awarded,
– 11 new research grants and contracts awarded
– 24 grant submissions

View the funding portfolio in our FY 2016 report


About Our Center


The Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center (SPARC) conducts research to enhance services, improve the quality of life, and promote recovery for people with behavioral health conditions. SPARC was created in 1993 when it was designated a Center of Excellence for Psychosocial and Systems Research by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH). DMH has a second Center of Excellence at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center-Harvard – the Commonwealth Research Center – that focuses on neurobiology and psychopharmacology research.

Our mission mirrors DMH's commitment to collaborating with other state agencies, consumers, families, advocates, providers, and communities. We strive for the broadest possible dissemination of our research with the goal of informing all stakeholders as to the state of the science. DMH and SPARC are aligned in their vision of promoting mental health through early intervention, treatment, education, policy and regulation to provide opportunities for citizens of the Commonwealth to live full and productive lives.

Our Center has internationally recognized expertise in program development, services research, quantitative and qualitative research methods, forensic/legal and human rights issues, child and family mental health issues, transitional youth, and co-occurring disorders.


Areas of Research Concentration


Internally, the SPARC has been re-organized into Areas of Research Concentration (ARC’s) based on the current research activities of the center and the potential for each of them to relate to external partners. These areas include research on services as well as the Application of Research (AOR) across the life span from child to adult.

Research on Services

  • Mental Health and Criminal Justice Services
  • Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice Services
  • Health Promotion and Psychosocial Interventions
  • Mental Health Services for Emerging Adults

Application of Research

  • Human Rights and Ethics
  • Multicultural Factors in Mental Health Care
  • Public Mental Health Literacy and Prevention
  • Dissemination and Implementation of Best Practices
  • Research Methodologies

Learn more about SPARC's Areas of Research Concentration

Additional Resources
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