UCLA Plans Behavioral Health Center

A ceremony yesterday at UCLA officially unveiled plans for a research center devoted to behavioral health, a $7.5 million investment that mirrors a sister effort at UC-Davis in Sacramento.

Together, they are called the Centers for Excellence in Behavioral Health, funded by $15 million over three years from the Mental Health Services Act, created in 2004 when California voters passed Proposition 63.

“The idea is to take what we do here at the UC [system] and … translate the science into policy and bring it to evidence-based practice in the community,” said Peter Whybrow, director of UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, where the behavioral health center will be.

“Rarely does what we know at the university [level] get translated into policy,” Whybrow said. “It really will begin to translate them into a true practice paradigm. … We have this amazing set of universities in California, but we don’t always use them to develop public policy.”

UCLA will be the urban arm of the program, with UC-Davis targeting rural populations, he said.

“We will be piloting some of the programs that we know already work,” Whybrow said. In Los Angeles County, he said, they’ve seen significant results when targeting depression. “We’ve shown the way in which you can reduce hospital admission and emergency department use, just by looking in the area of depression.”

Early diagnosis and intervention are important factors, he said, as well as facilitating connections among community organizations and providers.

“This is all still early, but we will probably also be working with recidivism, with mental health problems in the jails,” Whybrow said.

At UC-Davis, they’ll likely try to expand a program that helps people who are on the verge of becoming psychotic, Whybrow said. “That seems to be a program that really works,” he said. “It diverts people from the psychosis, it doesn’t stop them but it keeps people from falling in the ditch and … heads it off.”

About a hundred people attended the Los Angeles event yesterday, including state Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) who championed Prop. 63 and supports funding the new centers.

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