Gillings Innovation Laboratory for Mental Health System Improvement


Joseph P. Morrissey, Ph.D., Director

Kristen Hassmiller-Lich, Ph.D., Associate Director

Shoou-Yih Daniel Lee, Ph.D., Faculty Associate

Duke University

Marvin Swartz, M.D., Faculty Associate

Barbara Burns, Ph.D., Faculty Associate

Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D., Faculty Associate

Funding Source: UNC School of Public Health, through a generous gift by Dennis and Joan Gillings

Caring for people who have serious mental illness, substance abuse, and/or developmental disabilities has become one of North Carolina’s greatest public health challenges. Problems abound, including short supply of community-based crisis services, over-use of state psychiatric hospitals, the many people with serious needs who do not receive the most effective services, and growing numbers of people with mental illness who are detained in jails across the state.

This innovation lab, led by Joseph Morrissey, professor of health policy and management, UNC School of Public Health; professor of psychiatry, UNC School of Medicine; and Deputy Director for Research, UNC’s Sheps Center, will use a variety of system dynamics modeling tools in partnership with community representatives to address the use of state psychiatric hospitals and alternative community-based services.

In the first year, the team will map the clinical, organizational, and financial factors driving use of the state psychiatric hospital in the Central Region of North Carolina. The team will apply qualitative and quantitative system dynamics methods including stakeholder participation and computer simulations to identify leverage points and intervention strategies for enhancing state hospital use. In the second year, the team will scale up to statewide implementation by focusing these methods on state psychiatric hospital use in the Eastern and Western regions of N.C. Statewide modeling will allow the team to assess financial and human impacts of alternative policies and ways to improve the use of these hospitals for people throughout North Carolina.

Dr. Morrissey will work with colleagues from the UNC Schools of Public Health and Medicine, the UNC Sheps Center for Health Services Research, Duke University Medical School, and a variety of community partners.