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Drexel Researchers Offer Approaches to Infuse Mental Health Research into Policy through Legislators

July 27, 2016

Legislators at state and federal levels could improve the architecture of the US mental health system through budgetary and regulatory decisions if they had more evidence-based research to draw from, according to a new Point of View piece published in Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research. Researchers from the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University contend that the 7918 legislators in the United States—535 at the federal-level and 7383 at the state-level— each has potential to affect the population-level determinants of mental health through the votes they cast and the legislation they introduce.

The researchers suggest four strategies to infuse mental health research into policy:

  • factoring political climate into the timing of outreach, 
  • incorporating social costs as well as financial implications into messaging, 
  • developing relationships between the general public and members of stigmatized populations, and
  • establishing relationships with, and disseminating research findings directly to, legislative staff.

"The barriers to translating mental health research into legislation are formidable, but not insurmountable,” authors noted. "Politics will never be taken out of the legislative process, but scientific evidence can be more effectively infused into it.”

The Point of View builds on a recent study conducted by the research team, published in Psychiatric Services, which found that state legislators who prioritize mental health issues are more active users of research evidence that state legislators who  prioritize other health issues.

Lead author Jonathan Purtle, DrPH, MPH, assistant professor of Health Management and Policy in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University, has been awarded two-year fellowship to advance his research in dissemination and implementation (D&I) in mental health. The 2016-2018 Implementation Research Institute Fellowship is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health Institute (NIMH) in affiliation with the Center for Mental Health Services Research, within the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.

Visit Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research to see the full report.