The National Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research (NCAIANMHR), a program in the Department of Psychiatry, is one of four minority mental health research Centers. The NCAIANMHR is sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health and is the only program of this type in the country focusing specifically on American Indian and Alaska Native populations.
The NCAIANMHR has four major program functions:
- research training,
- information dissemination, and
- technical assistance.
The research component formulates, designs, conducts, and reports studies within four areas of inquiry cutting across the developmental life span:
- determining and improving the performance characteristics of self-report measures of serious psychological dysfunction and structured diagnostic interviews for assessing alcohol, drug, and mental (ADM) disorders;
- establishing the prevalence and incidence of ADM disorders, as well as related risk factors, through descriptive and experimental epidemiological investigations;
- developing and evaluating methods for detecting and managing ADM disorders presented in a spectrum of human service settings (e.g., primary care clinics, schools, detention facilities, social service programs); and
- examining the effectiveness of interventions for preventing ADM disorders and promoting well-being.
The resulting program of research currently involves 32 Indian and Native communities. It entails a funding portfolio in excess of $18 million, which derives from tribal, private, state, and federal (NIMH, NIAAA, NIDA, IHS, DVA) sources. The NCAIANMHR's central office in Denver has a large, interdisciplinary faculty that includes psychiatry (child/adolescent, adult), psychology (clinical, social, community, and counseling), anthropology (medical, psychological), sociology, social work, psychiatric epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health. Six field offices--located in Indian communities and staffed by local tribal members--support the field-based research and provide immediate, ongoing linkage to participating tribes. Finally, the NCAIANMHR maintains an extensive collaborative network of 30 Research Associates, whose involvement is established through formal institutional agreements with 17 universities and agencies. Half of the NCAIANMHR's faculty and staff are themselves American Indian: the largest single, programmatic concentration of such professionals in the nation. The training component offers a unique educational opportunity for residents. The NCAIANMHR sponsors the country's only American Indian Clinical Psychology Internship Program. This program provides full support to one trainee each year to participate in a specialized clinical training experience that capitalizes on field placements in urban and rural/reservation programs serving Indian people.
The technical assistance component involves the identification of and referral to individuals, programs, and agencies that represent sources of expertise with respect to mental health research, service, and education specific to Indian and Native communities. This aspect of the NCAIANMHR has been enhanced significantly by an award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which established us as the National Program Office for the Healthy Nations Initiative. The Healthy Nations Initiative is designed to encourage and facilitate comprehensive, culturally syntonic approaches to substance abuse prevention among Indian and Native youth. This $15 million two-phase, six-year program includes a series of technical assistance activities that promise a large-scale transfer of important knowledge and intervention experiences to this special population. In February 1994, further technical assistance, training, and educational resources became available with an $1.2 million from the Administration on Aging. This award established the Native Elder Health Care Resource Center (NEHCRC)--one of two new National Resource Centers for Older American Indians, Alaska Native Natives, and Native Hawaiians--as a sister program of the NCAIANMHR within the Department of Psychiatry. The NEHCRC's primary mission is to promote the delivery of culturally competent health care to this special population.