March 2018
In This Issue
Who We Are
As a Massachusetts
Department of Mental Health Research Center of Excellence, SPARC aims to improve the mental and behavioral health of all citizens of Massachusetts and beyond.
Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research 
promotes the full participation in socially valued roles of transition-age youth and young adults (ages 14-30) with serious mental health conditions.
What We Do
SPARC and the Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research are 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. 
Tell Us What You Think
We want to hear from you!
If you are interested in knowing more about a particular area of research or want to collaborate with us, please let us know .
Contact us at:
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Stay Connected

Upcoming Conferences

SPARC and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Commonwealth Research Center will be hosting the annual Massachusetts DMH Research Centers of Excellence Conference on Thursday, March 29, 2018 at UMass Medical School in Worcester.  This year's focus is on Person-Centered Integrated Care.

Register here!

Find materials for last year's conference here.

The 9th Annual Asian American Mental Health Forum is June 1 in the McCormack Building at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, MA. This year's theme is My Identity/Our Community: Together Fostering Mental Wellness & Resilience in Today's World. Be on the lookout for more information. 


Ekaterina Pivovarova will be presenting Chronic Disease and Health-Related Quality of Life in Drug Treatment Court (DTC) Participants on March 22, 2018 at the 11th Academic and Health Policy Conference on Correctional Health in Houston, TX.  

Maryann Davis and  Amanda Costa will be presenting at the 40th Annual NARRTC Conference - Shaping the Future held on March 26 and 27, 2018 in Arlington, VA.

In early March, SPARC and the Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research (Transitions ACR) researchers presented at the 31st Annual Research & Policy Conference on Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Behavioral Health in Tampa, FL.  While at the conference, the Transitions ACR hosted their 2018 Youth & Young Adult Mental Health State-of-the-Science Conference. Stay tuned to see the presentations from the conference.
What's Happening at SPARC?
New Research
New project at SPARC looking at how to screen Deaf women for perinatal depression! The UMass Medical School Center for Clinical and Translational Science recently awarded SPARC researchers Melissa L. Anderson and Nancy Byatt, and UMassMemorial Medical Care psychologist Kelly Wolf Craig a grant for their project Creating the Capacity to Screen Deaf Women for Perinatal Depression.

Deaf women are especially vulnerable to development or exacerbation of depression during the perinatal period. The goal of this project is to develop and validate tools to screen for depression among Deaf perinatal women so that they may access the same standard of care as other perinatal women. The aims are to: 
  1. Translate the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) from English into American Sign Language using a three-stage translation procedure previously validated in other behavioral health applications; and 
  2. Use the American Sign Language (ASL) version of the EPDS to:
a. Conduct screening interviews with 50 Deaf perinatal women, and
b.  Perform preliminary, high-quality psychometric analyses of the resulting data.
Check-out more of SPARC's work with the Deaf community here

Read about a  new study that aims to improve the mental health and parent relationships of underserved, low-income mothers and their partners. Funded by the UMASS Medical School Center for Clinical and Translational Science (UMCCTS) this pilot project is a collaborative effort among UMass Amherst, UMass Medical School, Square One, and the Children's Trust. The study team will adapt and test the feasibility of a group-based intervention called Choices in Childbirth & Co-Parenting (3CP) aimed at reducing depression and stress among low-income new mothers and their partners early in pregnancy.

Like this? Read about SPARC's other research efforts in parental and family mental health.
Hot off the Press!  
Can quality of life impact staying in Drug Treatment Courts? Ekaterina Pivovarova, Ph.D was recently awarded a KL2 grant to study The Impact of Health-Related Quality of Life on Retention in Drug Treatment Courts. Past research has focused on Drug Treatment Court (DTC) dropouts as a function of participant characteristics (e.g., age, criminal history) or treatment program features (e.g., frequency of DTC hearings). Identifying individuals most likely to dropout and helping them to remain in treatment programs is critical to decreasing substance use in this population. Her study proposes to shift the focus to health-related Quality of Life and its impact on DTC dropout. Read more about the study here.


See more about Law & Psychiatry research at SPARC. Want to learn more about Dr. Pivovarova's work? Find it here.
Improving Practice
Recently awarded by the NIH to Drs. Maryann Davis and Ashli Sheidow, the Effectiveness Trial of Treatment to Reduce Serious Antisocial Behavior in Emerging Adults with Mental Illness will determine if Multisystemic Therapy for Emerging Adults (MST-EA) is a more effective treatment than the enhanced usual treatment for this population. Currently, there is no intervention with proven efficacy to reduce criminal behavior for emerging adults with serious mental health conditions and this study is an important step in developing one. Learn more about the study here.

You can find out more about the MST-EA intervention here.

My Journey
Melissa Anderson, Ph.D., MSCI shares her clinical and research journey in this YouTube video. Melissa is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Director of Research, DeafYES! Center for Deaf Empowerment and Recovery and Director of Development & Implementation of Psychosocial Interventions, SPARC at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

See some of our American Sign Language materials here.
In the Community
Advocating for yourself and others is a powerful skill. Check out these personal advocacy stories developed with SPARC's Mental Health Experienced & Years of Understanding (MHE & YOU) Advisory Council.

Find out more about our Rehabilitation & Recovery program and tip sheets.
Change in Policy
Have you seen these articles and presentations by SPARC researchers?

Competing Commitments in Clinical Trials
Discussions about clinical care in clinical trials are typically about whether participants' care may be compromised by research procedures. There is concern that clinical researchers might give priority to helping their "patients" even if that requires deviating from the study protocol, and this has been largely ignored. The study team conducted an on-line survey with clinical researchers, including physicians, research nurses and other research staff, to assess the ways and frequency with which clinical trials may be at risk for being compromised by clinical researchers' attempts to address the clinical needs of subjects. The survey covered recruitment, clinical management while in the trial, and termination decisions.

Learn more in this presentation and this article.

Upcoming Webinars
Spring will be a busy webinar season for both SPARC and the Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research (ACR). Check out our April webinars below and be on the lookout for three more later this spring.

SPARC presents Improving Informed Consent to Clinical Research
With Charles Lidz, Ph.D.
Tuesday April 3, 2018 1:30pm to 2:30pm EDT
Register here.

Clinical research participants are often described as having therapeutic misconception when they lack adequate appreciation of one or more essential differences between clinical research and usual medical care. Because it undermines the validity of participants' informed consent, therapeutic misconception creates a tension between the need to protect the rights of individual participants and the importance of promoting research that advances the public good. Despite a large body of research documenting therapeutic misconception among participants in a wide range of clinical research settings, little attention has been paid to studying ways to reduce it. This webinar describes:

* The key differences between clinical trials and clinical care, and the ways in which therapeutic misconception can be manifest, and underscores the ethical importance of this phenomenon
* Evidence that it is possible to reliably measure therapeutic misconception with a simple 10 item measure
* A novel intervention designed to mitigate therapeutic misconception among clinical trial participants
* The findings from a recently completed, large randomized study that tests whether this intervention reduces therapeutic misconception without decreasing willingness to participate.

Transitions ACR presents Behavioral Health Disorders and Employment for Justice-Involved Adolescent
With Edward P. Mulvey, Ph.D. and Carol A. Schubert, M.P.H.
Wednesday, April 18, 2018 1pm to 2pm EDT
Register here.

There is widespread concern about the needs of adolescents with mental illness involved in the justice system. Mental health and social service providers have initiated numerous programs to identify and intervene with these adolescents at high risk for poor community outcomes and continued involvement with the criminal justice system. However, there is little empirical information to guide these efforts. In particular, little is known about how the relationship between mental health symptoms and positive outcomes (e.g., employment) in these adolescents.
This webinar will examine and compare patterns of education and employment over 7 years for justice-involved adolescent offenders with and without mental health conditions. The presenters will share findings on:

* The influence of mental health status on employment and education outcomes;
* How symptoms might are related to markers of successful employment and how employment might affect symptoms; and
* How interventions can be focused to assist these youth in achieving positive employment experiences.