A team of UNC researchers has been awarded funding for a pilot project that could help to improve the mental health of children in North Carolina.
Samantha Schilling, an associate professor of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the School of Medicine (SOM), and Paul Lanier, an associate professor at the School of Social Work, along with other colleagues from the SOM and School of Public Health, have been selected to receive $5,000 in seed funding as part of the University’s Creativity Hubs Pilot Award program. The campus program is supported by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and promotes the development of innovative ideas that emerge from cross-disciplinary interactions to solve difficult and challenging problems.
The research team was awarded for their development of a “Systems Science Hub.” This hub aims to bring together data scientists, policymakers, public health leaders, clinical providers, and community members with lived experiences with mental health issues to examine and strengthen the youth mental health system.
“The children’s mental health system is currently in crisis,” Lanier said. “We believe the best strategy to identify sustainable solutions to these highly complex problems is a transdisciplinary research team working in partnership with families, practitioners, and policymakers.”
Using a participatory methods approach, researchers will collaborate with partners at NC Integrated Care for Kids to explore how the overstressed and fragmented mental health system currently operates. As proposed, the team would then apply advanced data science techniques, including potential interventions in different combinations and context, to identify potential solutions for enhancing youth mental health statewide.
The UNC colleagues, who are among the campus finalists chosen in the first round of funding, will spend the next few months developing a larger proposal with hopes of receiving an additional $500,000 from the University research award program next year. Schilling will serve as principal investigator on the project, with Lanier serving as co-principal investigator. The School of Data Science and Society is co-sponsoring their project.