Serving Citizen Need by Improving Mental Health Services

ISyE’s Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies (CHESS) is part of a new effort by
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to strengthen mental health services across
the nation.

CHESS received a $3.7 million, five-year grant in August 2018 to serve as the Mental Health
Technology Transfer Center for Region 5, which includes Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,
Minnesota and Ohio.

As such, the new center will provide training and technical assistance to support the region’s
mental health workforce, covering treatment and recovery services.

“This is the Wisconsin Idea,” says CHESS Senior Scientist Todd Molfenter, director of the
center. “This is a great setting for this kind of center. The research environment is helpful as a
strong foundation to be able to make sure we’re promoting appropriate clinical practice.”

The grant is part of a new approach by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, to broaden access to
training on new evidence-based approaches to treatment. The administration has created 10
regional mental health technology transfer centers, plus additional ones focused specifically on the
needs of tribal and Hispanic/Latino populations.

The Region 5 center will provide a variety of in-person and distance training opportunities,
allowing a greater percentage of mental health workers to participate, and helping organizations
cope with high employee turnover in the industry.

By partnering with local coordinators from each state’s mental health provider association, the
regional center will be able to tailor its offerings to match local needs. It will also act as a conduit
for sharing best practices and resources across states and organizations, which the team hopes will
result in better coordination among mental health providers.

In its grant application, CHESS identified areas of particular need in the region, including
suicide prevention, youth safety, and the co-occurrence of substance use and mental health
disorders. Given the region’s demographic makeup, Molfenter says the center will also focus on
Native American, Hispanic/Latino, Hmong and African-American populations.

CHESS is also home to the Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center, having
received a $3.8 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services in October 2017.