Professor Cabassa’s Projects

Peer-Led Healthy Lifestyle
The Peer-Led Healthy Lifestyle Study aims to address the disparities in physical health faced by individuals with psychiatric disabilities, particularly among those who are racial and ethnic minorities, and thus at greater risk. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the project is evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of the Group Lifestyle Balance (GLB) program – an intervention that seeks to help individuals lose weight and improve health by making positive changes in diet and physical activity. The study utilizes peer specialists – individuals who themselves have had lived experience of mental illness –  to deliver the intervention to 150 individuals with mental illness who have been randomly assigned to receive this health service. The study will ultimately help identify how best to incorporate health interventions into supportive housing for persons with mental illness and whether this particular peer-led GLB approach is effective in improving health.

Key Ingredients of Peer Support
Building off the Peer-Led Healthy Lifestyle project, this study seeks to better understand the work of peer specialists as they support individuals with mental illness in making positive health changes. Peer Specialists are individuals who use their first-hand experience of mental illness, recovery, and service use, combined with formal training, to address the complex health needs of persons with mental illness. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the research will identify the factors and approaches that make peer specialists unique and effective in promoting mind-body resiliency among persons with mental illness. These findings will then inform the expansion of peer specialists’ roles in interdisciplinary health care teams and ensure that they are effectively utilized.

Bridges to Better Health and Wellness
Bridges to Better Health and Wellness seeks to address the physical health disparities faced by Latinos with mental illness by offering a culturally-adapted intervention to help integrate care. The study examines the acceptability and initial impact of providing Latinos with mental illness the services of a health care manager who focuses on improving care coordination, patient activation, and receipt of preventive primary care. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the study will examine participants’ satisfaction with the healthcare manager intervention as well as the impact it has on self-efficacy, receipt of preventive primary care services, and quality of care.

Integrated Health plus Housing
Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Integrated Health plus Housing project provides enhanced and integrated physical and mental healthcare to persons with serious mental illness facing multiple health challenges. The project combines the delivery of permanent housing with primary and specialty medical care, as well as comprehensive mental health and recovery support services, to better address the complex needs of individuals who have mental illness and co-occurring health conditions. The evaluation will assess whether these enhanced services can improve client health and use of routine medical care, while decreasing unnecessary hospital admissions and emergency department visits.