UH Researchers Play Key Role in $2.8M Grant Supporting Mental Health Treatment in Harris County


Robin E. Gearing, professor of social work in the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and director of the Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation in Treatment Engagement and Service, Jamison V. Kovach, professor of quality management in the UH College of Technology, and Micki Washburn, assistant professor of social work at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work combined their expertise to develop a winning grant proposal in partnership with The Harris Center for Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability (The Harris Center).  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded a $2.8M grant to develop an Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program. Gearing, Kovach, and Washburn won a $500,000 subcontract award to evaluate the AOT program outcomes and ensure alignment with participants’ needs, state laws, and goals. In addition, they will guide the program through continual improvement and quality assurance efforts.

As with most large, rapidly growing communities in the country, Harris County’s mental health system is challenged with keeping pace with the expanding demand for mental health services, particularly for high-need individuals. Focused on uninsured and under-insured people with serious mental illnesses, the goal of the Houston AOT Program is to improve sustained engagement and adherence to treatment by addressing the physical and behavioral health needs of participants. Achieving this goal will involve a partnership between The Harris Center, UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center, and Harris County Probate Court 3. During the four-year project, the Houston AOT Program is expected to serve more than 100 Harris County residents.

Jamison V. Kovach said, “We are looking forward to collaborating with the AOT Program and the improvements that will be made in the participants’ treatment and recovery journeys. The expected outcomes include reductions in the incidence and duration of psychiatric hospitalization, emergency healthcare services usage, homelessness, incarceration, and other interactions with the criminal justice system.”