Background: Individuals with serious mental illness are a vulnerable population at high risk for poor outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic and lack access to technology that has become central to human interaction, medical care, and research participation. Individuals with serious mental illness who are older, Latino, and residing in group living environments face additional barriers to technology use and are at heightened risk during the pandemic. Without innovative, evidence-based engagement strategies and digital tools, these individuals will be excluded from research. To address this gap, the project team aims to build capacity to conduct person-centered research using approaches that are tailored to older adults with serious mental illness, the Latino community, and those living in group environments.
Proposed Solution: The team will join with a stakeholder coalition to identify barriers and facilitators to engagement during the pandemic, build a virtual community of practice to foster co-learning, identify and evaluate strategies for virtual engagement, and develop a shared research agenda that is responsive to stakeholder needs and the context of the pandemic, able to be disseminated rapidly, and adapted to diverse populations.
- Elucidate barriers and facilitators to engagement and technology use among vulnerable adults with serious mental illness (older adults, Latino community, group living environments), their caregivers, and clinicians in the context of COVID-19
- Build capacity to conduct PCOR focused on older adults with serious mental illness that can be adapted to other high-risk populations
- Capture emerging research questions, create a shared agenda for PCOR across stakeholder groups, and develop and disseminate a virtual engagement toolkit
- Conduct virtual listening sessions and key informant interviews focused on engagement strategies and use of virtual technology for adults with serious mental illness, their caregivers, and clinicians in the context of COVID-19
- Create a virtual community of practice that brings together peer specialists, clinicians, administrators, and advocates and utilizes co-learning to build skills to partner in PCOR and adapt digital tools for adults with serious mental illness
- Capture emerging research needs, develop a shared research agenda and digital engagement toolkit for PCOR and research infrastructure that can be rapidly adapted to a changing context during the pandemic
Outcomes: Participation in virtual listening sessions and key informant interviews, build membership of the community of practice (disciplines, regions, stakeholder representation), summary of the community of practice sessions, virtual engagement strategies toolkit, shared research agenda, dissemination town hall, long-term research and engagement plan.
Stakeholder Engagement Plan: The stakeholder board includes older adults with serious mental illness, caregivers, community mental health workers, peer specialists, clinicians, health disparities researchers, advocates, and policy makers. Stakeholders will participate in 12 weekly virtual community of practice sessions to co-design and conduct PCOR using digital tools that can be disseminated widely and adapted.
Collaborators: Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, National Alliance on Mental Illness-Massachusetts, CLaRO Center for Latino Research Opportunities (University of Miami and Florida International University), Mongan Institute, Elder Mental Health Collaborative, Massachusetts General Hospital, North Suffolk Mental Health Association.