Research & Evaluation

CMH conducts rigorous community-partnered research to determine policies and practices that increase quality of care and associated outcomes, as well as reduce health disparities and improve health equity, for people with psychiatric and developmental disabilities across the lifespan. Our faculty bring expertise in implementation science, health economics, community-partnered research, field trials, effectiveness trials, research using large data sets, and qualitative and quantitative methods. CMH faculty lead a large portfolio of federally-funded research that includes:

  1. Studies using large administrative data sets to examine the effects of state policies on mental health service use and outcomes,
  2. observational studies of community care, and
  3. randomized effectiveness and implementation field trials, conducted in partnership with community agencies.

A few examples of specific studies are highlighted below. More complete lists of funded studies can be found on each faculty member’s web page.

In addition to the more traditional research we conduct, we also leverage our research infrastructure to support community mental health administrators, policy makers and payers to make informed decisions regarding mental health policy and practice. These services include:

  • Program evaluation. We evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs to determine their impact.
  • Service management. We help you provide your clients/patients with more efficient and effective services through the use of best practices, integrated data systems, and monitoring and evaluation methods to plan and manage complex services.
  • Informed decision-making. We develop powerful analytic applications to embed in program information to inform effective decision-making.
  • Policy and practice consultation. We help states and counties address policy and practice issues that affect children and adults with psychiatric and developmental disabilities.


In 2017, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) awarded The Penn Center for Mental Health (CMH)and the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) a P50 Center grant, “Transforming Mental Health Delivery through Behavioral Economics and Implementation Science.” The Center leverages principles of behavioral economics and implementation science to improve mental health service delivery. Three Principal Investigators lead the Center: Rinad Beidas, PhD, David Mandell, ScD, and Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD.

The Center was funded as part of the NIMH Advanced Laboratories for Accelerating the Reach and Impact of Treatments for Youth and Adults with Mental Illness (ALACRITY) to support the rapid development, testing, and refinement of novel and integrative approaches for (1) optimizing the effectiveness of treatments for and prevention of mental disorders; and (2) organizing and delivering mental health services in community settings. The ALACRITY Centers program is intended to support research that demonstrates an extraordinary level of synergy across disciplines and has a high potential for increasing the public health impact of existing and emerging mental health interventions and service delivery strategies.

The Penn ALACRITY Center’s research activities comprises three projects, each designed to improve the delivery of mental health care by changing processes at the organizational, practitioner, or patient level:

  • Project 1 (Project Directors: Steve Marcus, PhD, Mark Olfson, MD, and Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD) compares ways to incentivize adherence to antidepressant medications in the first six weeks of treatment among adults newly diagnosed with depression.
  • Project 2 (Project Directors: David Mandell, ScD, and Melanie Pellecchia, PhD) tests whether leveraging normative pressure and social status can increase data collection among community mental health workers treating children with autism.
  • Project 3 (Project Directors: Rinad Beidas, PhD, Nate Williams, PhD, and Rebecca Stewart, PhD) explores how to design organizational strategies to incentivize therapists’ use of evidence-based practices.

In addition to specific research projects, the Center supports the development of novel statistical methods and study designs to increase knowledge of what contributes to successful implementation of evidence-based mental health treatments, and how best to leverage this knowledge to increase quality of mental health care and outcomes.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Rinad Beidas, PhD
Funder: NIMH

Autism Intervention Research- Behavioral (AIR-B)

This multi-site trial (UCLA, University of Rochester, UC Davis, University of Pennsylvania) will test two interventions to improve care among under-resourced families of children with autism. The first will help newly diagnosed children and their families quickly access services. The second will assist children and youth successfully transition from preschool to kindergarten and from middle school to high school by developing tools to connect families, staff from the sending school, and staff from the receiving school.

Principle Investigator: Dr. David Mandell, ScD
Funder: Health Resources & Services Administration (HSERA)
Learn More:

Optimizing Impact of Public-Academic Partnerships in Fostering Policymakers’ Use of Research Evidence

The proposed project aims to develop a conceptual framework to understand dynamic and complex public-academic partnerships (PAPs) and reveal contexts and mechanisms to occur for each PAP life cycle stage to optimize PAP leaders’ use of research evidence in improving youth mental health and well-being. Recruiting PAPs across the U.S. that aim to improve mental health and/or promote well-being of youth aged 12-25 years, we will conduct document analysis and an online survey of PAPs to inform policymakers and academic researchers regarding the contexts and mechanisms to increase ultimate PAP sustainability and promote policymakers’ use of research evidence in improving youth outcomes.

Principle Investigator: Dr. Christina Kang-Yi, PhD
Funder: William T. Grant Foundation
Mechanism: Officer’s Grant

View projects by investigator by clicking here.