December 2020
Welcome to our iSPARC December Newsletter!
For many of us, this holiday season is going to be harder than any we can remember. The traditional "Happy Holidays" we say to one another feels a bit hollow as this year the season is fraught with stress, anxiety, disappointment, a sense of loss, depression and other difficult emotions. How can we take care of ourselves when 2020 has been, and continues to be such a challenge? The focus of our December newsletter is on resiliency, and providing tools and ideas to prepare ourselves for the next few months. We have included ideas from our young adults at Transitions ACR, as well as an article from Mara Briere, founder of Grow a Strong Family, Inc., a local social service agency which provides services to families uprooted by mental health issues. With some support, self care and coping skills under your belt, we hope you and your family get through the holidays with gratitude for what we do have, and a resiliency to manage the challenges we face today.
Parent Blog
How to Survive the Holidays When Your Loved One
is Living with a Mental Health Condition
Mara Briere, founder of Grow A Strong Family, Inc. writes, "When a loved one has a mental health disorder, this can throw a curve ball at the established rituals that a family has. Just like cancer and diabetes can throw a curve ball at family rituals, it is important to acknowledge that mental health conditions can do the same, and to identify some strategies for creating new rituals and expectations. Rituals, routines and traditions change and this is something we can learn to accept. Read about the importance of new rituals, SMART goals and creating accommodations in advance, especially when COVID is already changing the way we celebrate. Read MORE.
Empowered to Act
The Hidden Strengths of Those with
Lived Experience of Mental Health Conditions
Some of us deal with stress better than others and one of the keys may be in our resiliency - something many of those with lived mental health experience have built up over time. Learn more about this hidden strength in the latest tip sheet from iSPARC,
Resiliency and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Hidden Strengths of Those with Lived Experience of Mental Health Conditions.
Improving Practice
Before a Mental Health Crisis Hits: Creating a Family Safety Plan

The iSPARC Family Advisory Board has just developed a tip sheet on creating a Family Safety Plan. The tip sheet will guide you through creating a “playbook” of the best ways to minimize or divert a mental health crisis with a family member. The goal of a safety plan is to identify possible triggers for a mental health issue, and actions you can take to minimize or prevent a crisis and ensure the safety of everyone. Our Tip Sheet also includes a template you can use to build an Emergency Plan.
Young Adult Blog
Cold? Snowy? Icy?
Social Distancing Activities to Maintain Your Mental Health

In her latest blog post, Maggie created a list of social distancing activities for various weather conditions, including those cold and dreary days. We'll get through this winter! Read Our Latest Young Adult Blog Post HERE.
Advancing Research
Our 2020 iSPARC Annual Report

The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Research Center of Excellence, the UMass Implementation Science and Practice Advances Research Center (iSPARC), is pleased to present our 2020 Annual Report. This report recaps the work our center has done over the past year, including our many new initiatives, our collaborations with the Massachusetts Dept. of Mental Health and other agencies, our community engagement programs and our stakeholder engagement programs. We encourage you to share it with colleagues. Read and download it HERE.
Meet the Staff
Kimberly Yonkers Appointed Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at UMass Medical School

Kimberly A. Yonkers, MD, an innovative and visionary leader in the interdisciplinary fields connecting psychiatry and women’s health, has joined UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care as chair and professor of psychiatry. "Her academic leadership in the field of women’s health provides a particularly strong complement to our institution’s existing strengths and future strategic direction,” said Dr. Flotte, executive deputy chancellor, provost and dean of the School of Medicine. At iSPARC we are excited to have Dr. Yonkers as Chairman, as her work aligns closely with our Lifeline4Moms work. Read more about Dr. Yonkers HERE.
In the NEWS
Investigators at iSPARC and Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research have recently received the following five grants! Congratulations everyone.
  • Maryann Davis and Stephenie C. Lemon, Professor of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, are Co-Directors of the Community Engagement and Collaboration Core which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded University of Massachusetts Clinical and Translational Science Award. This award enhances the capacity of UMMS in the conduct of clinical and translational research, with a focus on infrastructure development. The Community Engagement and Collaboration Core aims to enhance academic and community capacity to address urgent health priorities among communities in Massachusetts using community engaged research approaches through the establishment of regional community-based research networks (CBRN) and implement educational and workforce development programs.

  • Maryann Davis is Co-Investigator on a National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) R24, Building a Lasting Foundation to Advance Actionable Research on Recovery Support Services for High Risk Individuals: The Initiative for Justice and Emerging Adult Populations with Ashli Sheidow of Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC). This partnership between advanced researchers, persons in recovery, providers, and payors will advance research on peer supports and recovery residences for (a) public system-involved emerging adults (ages 16-25) and (b) individuals who are justice-involved (including emerging adults).

  • Gina Vincent received a 3-year grant from the National Institute of Justice titled Optimizing Supervision and Service Strategies to Reduce Reoffending: Accounting for Risks, Strengths, and Developmental Differences. This is a research project that will be conducted within juvenile probation offices across three states to 1) identify youth characteristics (risk and protective factors) that are most strongly related to reoffending, to inform agencies about where to focus the most attention, and 2) determine which services (risk-reduction and strengths-based) lead to the lowest rates of reoffending.

  • Kathryn Sabella was awarded $600,000 from NIDILRR for the 3-year Developing Implementation and Fidelity Monitoring Tools for the Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition (BRYT) Program. This project develops, tests, and refines standardized products that can be used for implementation and evaluation of the Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition (BRYT), a model program supporting students who have experienced mental health crises. This project will produce: a BRYT intervention logic model and a BRYT implementation package that includes a BRYT manual, a BRYT training and technical assistance plan and fidelity measures and protocols. This project is a collaboration of the Brookline Center.

  • Marsha Ellison is Co-PI along with Marianne Farkas, Director of Training, Dissemination, and Technical Assistance for the Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, for the new NIDILRR-funded Center on Knowledge Translation on Employment Research (CeKTER). The goal of CeKTER is to promote the appropriate use of research-based knowledge and products to improve services, approaches, practices and policies that support improved employment outcomes of people with disabilities. This cross - disability Knowledge Translation Center, mandated to support NIDILRR employment grantees, will achieve its goal through its commitment to co-production with experts across a variety of fields. The Advisory Council, for example is comprised of influential thinkers in implementation science and representatives of national associations of people with disabilities. Collaborators include prominent NIDILRR disability employment researchers. For more information and to request technical assistance for disseminating your NIDILRR funded research please contact
New Commissioner of the
Mass DMH Announced

Brooke Doyle has officially been appointed the new Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health replacing Joan Mikula. Brooke is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). She assumes this role after serving as Acting Commissioner of DMH following the retirement of Commissioner Joan Mikula on October 1, 2020. She’s been at DMH for 18 years with 30 years in the mental health field. Brooke Doyle holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the UMass Amherst and a Master of Education from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Welcome, Brooke! Read the full press release HERE
What is Transitions ACR Doing?
New Comics that Support Resiliency while Job Interviewing
Our new comics were created to teach young adults about their rights regarding disclosure of disabilities when they are job interviewing, and how to handle difficult questions. It's easy to get flustered and uncomfortable during interviews. By reading our comics, understanding your rights, and practicing your interview skills, you can become more capable of handling whatever questions get asked of you. Read/Download our new Comics HERE.
Who We Are
The Implementation Science and Practice Advances Research Center (formerly known as the Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center) is a part of the University of Massachusetts Medical School's Department of Psychiatry. 

iSPARC is a Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) Center of Excellence for Public Mental Health Services and Implementation Research that aims to improve the mental and behavioral health of all citizens of Massachusetts and beyond. iSPARC is committed to transferring knowledge and insights gained through rigorous research to improve the lives of people with lived mental health experience.

We conduct Participatory Action Research, an all-inclusive approach that ensures that every aspect of our research incorporates the voices of those with lived mental health experience.
Subscribe & Share!

Please share our newsletter with your network. To subscribe, click here.

Visit us online!
Implementation Science and Practice Advances Research Center (iSPARC) | University of Massachusetts Medical School | 508-856-5498 | 508-856-8700 | |