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Multicultural Mental Health

Program Description

Eliminating racial/ethnic and cultural-linguistic disparities in the delivery, quality and utilization of health care services has emerged as a national and Massachusetts Department of Mental Health priority.

Our multicultural research and dissemination activities focus on developing knowledge and culturally-informed interventions aimed at promoting behavioral health and wellness among members of racial/ethnic minority, immigrant populations and the Deaf Community. Current areas of research include:the development and evaluation of culturally- and linguistically-tailored interventions for posttraumatic stress disorder and co-occurring disorders, tobacco dependence treatment, and addiction treatment; innovations in addiction treatment; and, improving access to behavioral health services and vocational rehabilitation programs.

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Melissa AndersonMelissa L. Anderson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
S. LemonStephenie C. Lemon, Ph.D., M.S.
Professor of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine

We are interested in: 

  • Promoting clinical services, research, and evaluation initiatives for improving health and wellness among sociolinguistic minority groups.
  • Providing expertise to community health organizations on culturally-competent implementation of evidence based treatments for racial/ethnic minority clients, immigrant clients, and Deaf American Sign Language users.
  • Conducting rigorous research to develop, adapt, and evaluate culturally- and linguistically-accessible behavioral health interventions.
  • Translating knowledge gained from our research into recommendations for public policy and clinical practice.

Ongoing Research

Piloting Signs of Safety: A Deaf-Accessible Therapy Toolkit for Alcohol Use Disorder and Trauma

Title: Piloting Signs of Safety: A Deaf-Accessible Therapy Toolkit for Alcohol Use Disorder and Trauma
Dates: 8/12/2018-7/31/2021
Funder: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Funding: $722,343
PI: Melissa Anderson, Ph.D.

Description: The U.S. Deaf community – a group of more than 500,000 Americans who communicate using American Sign Language (ASL) – experiences nearly triple the rate of lifetime problem drinking and twice the rate of trauma exposure compared to the general population. Although there are validated treatments for alcohol use disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in hearing populations, there are no evidence-based treatments for any behavioral health condition for use with Deaf clients. To address these barriers, our team developed Signs of Safety, a Deaf-accessible therapy toolkit for treating alcohol use disorder and PTSD. Our proposed aims are to conduct a two-arm pilot randomized controlled trial of Signs of Safety and to collect data on feasibility, preliminary clinical outcomes, and potential mediators and moderators of outcome.

Supplement Piloting Signs of Safety: A Deaf-Accessible Therapy Toolkit for Alcohol Use Disorder and Trauma

Title: Supplement Piloting Signs of Safety: A Deaf-Accessible Therapy Toolkit for Alcohol Use Disorder and Trauma
Dates: 9/1/2019-7/31/2021
Funder: NIH/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Funding:  $438,956
PI: Melissa Anderson, Ph.D.

Description: This diversity supplement supports the mentorship and training of postdoctoral fellow under award R34AA026929, “Piloting Signs of Safety: A Deaf-Accessible Therapy Toolkit for AUD and Trauma.”  The 11-month program of formal postdoctoral training, hands-on research experiences, and interdisciplinary mentorship activities will advance the postdoctoral fellow towards their goal of becoming an NIAAA-funded researcher who creates and disseminates Deaf-accessible, evidence-based alcohol treatment interventions. Our lab at UMass Medical School (UMMS) is ideally and uniquely suited to provide these formative professional development experiences, as we are currently spearheading the first-ever behavior therapy randomized controlled trial (RCT) within the Deaf population.  

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