Loma Linda University
Behavioral Health News

Volume 1, Issue 1

A Welcome from the Dean

I am happy to introduce to you the first edition of the SBH newsletter. Published three times a year, this newsletter provides a wonderful opportunity for students and alumni to stay up to date on the many exciting things happening in the school.


Achieving Excellence in Behavioral Health

A year and a half old, the new/restructured School of Behavioral Health is moving into its future. And not just any future, but one where we are identifying and embracing what we call our school's Grand Challenges: goals whose realization requires collaboration and innovation, which if successfully implemented have a high likelihood of transformative impact. These challenges will focus our attention on the development of:


- Inter-professional curricula and education that emphasizes recovery, resiliency and wellness
- Translational research that engages faculty and students in the behavioral health disciplines to work with laboratory scientists to develop studies that have the potential to improve treatment interventions and health outcomes for consumers 

- Global practice and research agenda aimed at infusing behavioral health into the global health foci of Loma Linda University Health 


The restructuring of our school to focus solely on behavioral health issues has and continues to afford many exciting opportunities. This issue presents some of those opportunities, including the collaborative development of a Certificate in Play Therapy and global learning opportunities for faculty and students.


- Dr. Beverly J. Buckles, Dean

SBH Goes Global!

Global Behavioral Health
Since 1995, faculty, clinicians, students and some alumni of the behavioral health disciplines at Loma Linda University have been increasingly involved in international disaster and trauma response interventions, education, and most recently research. This involvement has provided huge learning experiences for those involved-so much so that it became imperative that our school and its academic programs transition our curricula to include global learning experiences in practice and research. It is with this view that the SBH announces the provision of short-term (two week) and extended (one quarter) global experiences:
- Global Behavioral Health Service Learning (2)
- Global Behavioral Health Elective Practicum (4)


Sherman Indian High School Training

In collaboration with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Loma Linda University Behavioral Health Institute faculty and students will provide a series of intensive behavioral health trainings to Sherman Indian High School (SIHS) staff. SIHS is a Native American boarding school that houses over 400 Native American students from throughout the United States. The series of trainings began during the school's "back to school" meetings in Riverside on August 15, 2013 and will continue throughout the school year. The trainings aim to help further support the capacity of the SIHS faculty and housing staff. Training topics include Parenting Skills/Child Care, Child Abuse Reporting Requirements and Protection Procedures, and Suicide Prevention. SIHS is committed to providing a safe, caring, environment in which a balanced program will foster the academic, social, cultural, physical, and spiritual growth of a diverse population of American Indians in an off-reservation boarding school designed for post-secondary success.




Osaka Jikei College Students Visit Social Work & Social Ecology 

On October 23, 2013, twenty-two Japanese students from Osaka Jikei College in Osaka, Japan arrived at the Department of Social Work & Social Ecology for a three-day educational experience to learn about Social Work in America. Students attended lectures about the history of social work, learned techniques and opportunities for working with older adults, and were made aware of the problems of gang violence within the Inland Empire. In addition to classroom experiences, the students made field visits to Patton State Hospital, the Redlands Boys and Girls Club, and the Heritage Gardens Health Care Center where they observed social work in practice. The visit culminated in a joint banquet with students visiting the School of Allied Health Respiratory Program, where 68 students received LLU certificates for their participation. This is an annual event that the social work students look forward to and we appreciate the opportunity for cultural and educational exchange. An enjoyable time was had by all of the students and faculty!

- Drs. Kimberly Freeman and Victoria Jackson 


Community Engagement

Loma Linda University Health Hosts Black Men's Health Fair

Loma Linda University Health, led by an interdisciplinary faculty and student group, hosted the Black Men's Health Fair on Sunday, August 18, 2013 at the Kansas Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church in Riverside, CA, as part of its commitment to addressing the persistent health disparities the affect African American men. A total of 215 men participated in the health fair. African American adult males (21 years old and older) were offered a variety of services, such as free cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure, weight and respiratory health screenings, as well as education about prostate cancer and how lifestyle and stress affect health. The free health fair was organized by the LLU Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine, the LLU Schools of Medicine and Behavioral Health, and Project C.H.A.N.G.E. (Changing Health for Adult Men with New and Great Experiences). An interdisciplinary collective of 60 volunteers participated in the day's events. Represented among this group were the LLU School of Behavioral Health, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Public Health, School of Allied Health, SAC Health Systemcommunity members, and our host, the Kansas Avenue SDA Church. The men were also invited to assist the LLU research team in learning more about men's health and how men make decisions about health risks and prevention. The team of LLU medical researchers, led by professors Dr. Carlos Casiano and Dr. Susanne Montgomery, is investigating the links between stress and prostate cancer in men from different racial and ethnic groups. The group is seeking more effective alternative tests for prostate cancer that can be administered to African American men-who have a much higher burden of prostate cancer and higher mortality rates as compared with other racial/ethnic groups.


BHi Shares

The Behavioral Health Institute (BHI) Office of Research is continuing its sponsorship of a monthly symposium 'brown bag' series title "BHi Shares: Interdisciplinary Topics in Research." In the spirit of Loma Linda University's commitment to expanding translational collaborative research opportunities, the objective of this series is to share existing efforts and serve as a conduit for future interdisciplinary efforts. For those who RSVP a light lunch will be provided.

If you are interested in attending, please email [email protected].


Translational Research

The IEAAWC Hair Health Study community advisory board: Adrienne Braxton (American Cancer Society), Ms. Frances Burnistine (Community Member), Marshare Penny, MPH (County of Riverside Dept. of Public Health), Eudora Mitchell, MA (Executive Director Quinn Community Outreach Corporation) Phyllis Clark, (CEO Healthy Heritage Movement, Inc.) Susanne Montgomery, PhD, MPH, (Director of Research  BHI/LLU) Kimberly Payne, PhD (Assistant Professor, Pathology and Human Anatomy LLU School of Medicine) Laura Stiel, MS (Loma Linda University Department of Social Work & Social Ecology) Alicia Thompson, (Salon Owner).

Breast Cancer Research

The Inland Empire African American Wellness Collaborative (IEAAWC), a local partnership led by a team of community based researchers that includes Dr. Susanne B. Montgomery, Director of Research of the Behavioral Health Institute, Loma Linda University, Eudora Mitchel, MA, Executive Director of Quinn Community Outreach Corporation in Moreno Valley, and Phyllis Clarke, Executive Director of Healthy Heritage Movement, Inc. in Riverside, was recently awarded an 18-month, $150,000 pilot study grant by the California Breast Cancer Program to explore the potential role of hair product usage in causing breast cancer in local African American/Black women. This prestigious pilot award is funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program and the team's research questions came directly from persistent community concerns about this issue. The project's title is: Is The Cost of Beauty Putting Black Women at Risk? The IEAAWC Hair and Health Study will be the quintessential example of Community-Based Participatory Research-where true collaboration and empowerment will engage local women in exploring research questions, helping them prepare for prevention, outreach, and further study. The awarded application ranked first out of the seventeen CRC pilot studies that were reviewed and placed fifth in the overall programmatic review for this year's breast cancer program. The project began its official activities on September 8, meeting with the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to discuss the highlights and goals of the grant. The CAC membership includes Marshare Penny, DrPH cand., a Riverside County epidemiologist, Alicia Thompson, Healthy Hair Therapist Tech and salon owner, Adrienne Braxton with the American Cancer Society, Inc. and a two-time cancer survivor, Dr. Kimberly Payne of the LLU Center for Heath Disparities and Molecular Research and Medicine, and Ms. Frances Burnistine, the first African American hair salon owner in the city of Moreno Valley.

Older Adults & the BHI

The LLU Behavioral Health Institute (BHI) is emerging as a leader in providing services to the older adult community, specifically support for the caregivers and loved ones of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Approximately 18 months ago, a caregiver presented to the School of Behavioral Health (SBH) faculty and supervisors the need for supportive services for those who face the challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia. The idea was to involve students and trainees in the development and implementation of a "care partner" support group to be offered through the BHI and facilitated by the interdisciplinary efforts of Psychology, Social Work, Counseling and Family students and Psychiatry residents. Emphasizing the dignity and needs of the caregivers, these professions came together to form a Care Partner Team with the purposes of program development derived from the discussion of new ideas and opportunities afforded by collaborative engagement. In July 2011, dialogue began regarding the need to create services for the community that provided volunteer and training programs for caregivers wherever need existed. Faith-based leaders, churches, organizations, agencies, care centers, and academic programs within Loma Linda University, were identified as partners in this endeavor. In November of that same year an event was organized to provide a rich experience for the community to share and work together to develop services. As a result of this activity the Care Partner Support Group (CPSG) held its first meeting in February 2012. The CPSG continues to meet every Monday and is co-facilitated by BHI interns and trainees, with educational presentations as requested and needed by the group members. Qualified speakers have presented on the topics including, legal issues (e.g. wills and trusts, conservatorships); depression (signs and symptoms), and neuropsychology (stages of dementia). (A second group, for children and grandchildren of caregivers, began April 2013.) Then, in November 2012, the BHI and Department of Neurology partnered with other departments in the School of Medicine (as well as San Bernardino and Riverside counties, faith-based churches and organizations, and area agencies serving older adults) to promote Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, with weekly forums titled "Alzheimer's: Communities of Care." Participants took part in panel discussions and guest/attendee participation. These forums solidified the need to develop a coalition of community partners that represent the diverse needs of the caregiver population. The BHI partners and the Department of Neurology continue in their shared commitment to partner in developing programs and services to identify and meet caregiver needs.


The Care Partner Support Group is available for family and friends caring for a loved one with dementia. The group meets on Mondays from 3:30-5:00pm at the BHI. For more information, call (909) 558-9161.


- Carrie Eskay, MSW, LCSW


MEND Program

The BHI/BMC Mastering Each New Direction (MEND) program is an outpatient program designed to support pediatric/adolescent patients and their families in maintaining or regaining emotional health and balance during a process of significant medical illness or treatment such as transplantation, type 1 diabetes management, or chemotherapy. Patients and their families work with our compassionate team of expert therapists and clinicians on addressing issues of Anxiety, Body Image, Depression Compliance, Family Issues, Self-esteem, Grief and Loss. This exciting and innovative program has received much attention and is currently in the process of conducting rigorous translational outcomes research, bringing together clinicians, therapists, and researchers from a variety of disciplines.

To learn more about MEND, call (909) 558-9275.


SHIELD Program

The Self-Harm Intensive Educational and Learning Development (SHIELD) Program for Adolescent Self Injury is an outpatient program designed to help teens learn ways to cope with extreme emotions without resorting to self-injury and to help parents understand how overwhelming emotions lead some teens to hurt themselves. It is presented as an interconnecting series of therapy/training/support group sessions:

1. Adolescent Skills Training Groups: Teens attend these groups to learn DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills to stop self-injurious behaviors and learn to manage their emotions more effectively.
2. Multifamily Skills Training Groups: Teens and their parents/guardians learn skills simultaneously.
3. Parent Skills Training Groups: Parents/guardians attend these groups for support and to learn better ways to handle their own frustrations, guilt, and overwhelming emotions in response to their teen's self-injurious behaviors. They are also encouraged to learn the DBT skills teens learn to support and reinforce them outside of therapy.
4. Weekly individual Sessions: Teens will have weekly sessions with a DBT therapist to learn and reinforce DBT skills and assess their individual progress.
For more information, contact Susan Jackson, LMFT Program Manager, at (909) 558-9236.
Dr. Neece (far left) with SBH students participating in the MAPS Project.
Mindful Awareness for Parenting Stress (MAPS) Project

Last year the Mindful Awareness for Parenting Stress (MAPS) project was conducted at the Behavioral Health Institute at Loma Linda University under the direction of Cameron Neece, PhD in the department of Psychology. This randomized controlled trial examined the efficacy of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for parents of children, ages 2 to 5 years, with developmental delays and autism spectrum disorders. Previous research indicates that parents of these children typically experience very high levels of stress and that parental stress may exacerbate children's behavior problems over time. The MAPS project involved 51 parents who were randomly assigned to an immediate treatment or waitlist control group. At intake the majority of parents reporting having "clinical" levels of stress, suggesting that they were in significant need of treatment. After the MSBR intervention, parents who received the treatment reported significant reductions in parenting stress and parental depression as well as significant improvements in their satisfaction with life compared to the control group. Additionally, parents who received the treatment reported significant improvements in their children's behavior problems, specifically in the areas of attention problems and ADHD symptoms. Currently follow up assessments are being conducted to determine if the treatment gains are maintained. Initial results indicate that MBSR is a feasible and effective treatment for families of children with developmental disabilities. Dr. Neece and her students hope to secure additional funding to continue to offer this intervention to more families.

- Dr. Cameron Neece


Student News

Lobby Days

"Legislative Lobby Days is a two-day event that educates students and professionals about important legislation affecting clients and the social work profession. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the legislative process and to get a "hands-on" lobbying experience talking with state legislators about important issues."



"To say that Lobby Days was transcendent would be an understatement. Every student should experience this trip. In fact, it should be a curriculum requirement. I have yet to speak to any past attendees that were anything less than crowing about their experience...and for good reason! It broadens your awareness and makes you feel boastfully proud of our profession. My zest for
social work and making a change in the world have been at an all-time high since participating in Lobby Days 2012. Be good to yourself. Go to Lobby Days!"

- Robert Gonzalez, SWSE Student

SBH Student Wins APA Award!

Loma Linda University doctoral student, Kathleen Parker, MSwon the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 54: Society Pediatric Psychology award for her research project, "Coping Style and Parents' Perception of Stress in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit." Division 54 President Dr. Michael A. Rapoff, presented her with the award.


Faculty Updates

Dr. Cameron Neece

BHI Seed Grant funds were used to fund a pilot study on mindfulness-based stress reduction(MBSR), which provided preliminary data for an NIH R01 grant application that was submitted in June of 2013. Over the past year, Dr. Cameron Neece conducted a pilot study at the LLU Behavioral Health Institute to preliminarily assess the feasibility and efficacy of MBSR for parents of young children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Over 100 parents contacted our research team expressing interest in the study and 85% of those families participated in a phone screen. Fifty-one parents enrolled in the study originally, and five parents completed the initial assessments but dropped out of the study before the intervention began, resulting in a final sample of 46 parents. Intake data indicated that the majority of participating parents (82%) had high levels of parenting stress (> 85th percentile) as measured by the Parenting Stress Index (PSI). Additionally, all of the children were considered to be "at-risk" according to the ECBI and over 87% had clinical levels of behavior problems on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Less than 5% of the parents were receiving services or supports, indicating the extraordinary need among these families. These data highlight a critical need to continue to examine interventions that support families in order to improve outcomes for vulnerable children. A manuscript detailing initial parent and child outcomes was recently accepted for publication (Neece, 2013) and pilot results suggest that MBSR may be effective in reducing parental stress among parents of children with IDD. Preliminary investigation of the feasibility of MBSR for this population is currently under review for publication (Roberts & Neece, under review). Attendance in the groups was high, with 72.2% of parents attending over 80% of the sessions. Attrition was also low, in that five participants dropped before beginning the program and another three dropped later in the program, yielding an 84.3% completion rate and an attrition rate of 15.7%. Regarding fidelity of implementation, a treatment fidelity measure was developed and preliminary results indicated that there were no group differences regarding the intervention components covered or contact time. At the end of the group, participants were asked for their overall opinion of the course; not a single negative comment was received. Typical responses from parents included, "I would never have imagined this great outcome", "The course changed my life", and "It made me better to myself and those around me." These preliminary data suggest that MBSR is a feasible intervention for parents of young children with IDD. Currently, we are completing 6-month follow-up assessments on pilot study participants.

Dr. Brian Distelberg
Dr. Brian Distelberg and a team of researchers are looking at the effects of coffee and caffeine on bladder function in postmenopausal female patients. Through the Versafund ($25,000 award), the team is currently working on a four-phase (caffeine coffee, decaffeinated coffee, caffeine pill and a placebo pill) randomized study within subject crossover design. They will be measuring biomarkers such as urine output (frequency and urgency), weight/hydration (Tanita scale) and caffeine output in the urine (as well as other enzymes). They will also collect mental and general health measures. The target population of the study will be postmenopausal women who are current patients in a local urology clinic. The problem statement notes that little has been proven in terms of caffeine effects on menopause because current studies: 1) use a dosage that is too low (which the researchers proved with a pilot study (Staack, Distelberg & Sabate, in review) and 2) estrogen interacts with caffeine. A secondary aim of the study is to determine whether the caffeine effects are due to coffee or just to caffeine.


Dr. Kelly Morton 

The Biopsychosocial Religion and Health Study (BRHS) interdisciplinary team led by Jerry Lee, PhD in the School of Public Health and Kelly Morton, PhD in the Schools of Medicine and Behavioral Health is currently conducting research projects on allostatic load biomarkers (e.g., cortisol, norepinephrine, epinephrine, c-reactive protein, other cardiovascular markers) to examine the relationships between current and early stress/trauma, psychological mediators (i.e., religiousness, reserve capacity, social support), and mental and physical health outcomes with Adventist Health Study-2 participants. The team has established that religious engagement mediates the effects of early life stress by decreasing negative emotionality to improve perceived physical health. The team is currently testing three mediators that may explain how religious engagement operates on perceived physical health as well as allostatic load (stress biomarkers that herald wear and tear on organ systems) including healthy lifestyle choices, negative emotionality, and social support. The next phase of the project will examine allostatic load changes from 2006-7 to 2010-11 in relation to religious engagement, negative emotionality, and lifestyle choices. Anyone interested in further work regarding such biomarkers and health should contact Dr. Morton in the Department of Psychology. Biological samples have been stored for future research as new biomarkers are identified in the future.

Dr. Sylvia Herbozo

Dr. Sylvia Herbozo was selected to be a scholar in the  Programs to Increase Diversity among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research (PRIDE) program, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. She is part of the Behavioral and Sleep Medicine Program at New York University. This award funds research career advancement opportunities for junior faculty from minority groups that are under-represented in the biomedical or health sciences. Dr. Herbozo's research will be focusing on culturally sensitive treatments for binge-eating disorder in Latinos.  


Faculty Appointments


Dr. Louis Jenkins

Dr. Louis Jenkins, Chair of the Department of Psychology, retired at the close of Spring Quarter 2013. He has been appointed Professor Emeritus by the LLU Board. He is very appreciative and grateful for this appointment as it represents a continued connection with what has been a blessed journey for the past 17 years.


Dr. Susanne Montgomery

Dr. Susanne B. MontgomeryDirector for Research at the Behavioral Health Institute, was recently appointed Head of the Division of Interdisciplinary Studies in the School of  Behavioral Health, and is excited about the enthusiasm of SBH faculty for applied, practice-meaningful translational research.


Announcing the School of Behavioral Health Certificate in Play Therapy!

The Certificate in Play Therapy provides the curriculum required to qualify as a Registered Play Therapist. Copies of the program curriculum can be obtained by emailing [email protected] with a request. 


Apply online today!

Upcoming SIMS Trips

China--Hangzhou: December 14-30, 2013
India--Mumbai: August 16-31, 2014
Contact Us!

We invite all students, faculty, alumni, friends, and community partners to share this publication widely. We welcome your comments, suggestions, and alumni updates:

School of Behavioral Health
11065 Campus Street
Loma Linda, CA  92350
(909) 558-4528


Like us on Facebook    Follow us on Twitter