SC Clinical & Translational Science Institute, Office of Community Engagement 


News You Can Use!





Volume 1, Issue 4                                                                                                                            January 2012

In This Issue 

What is the role of the  Peer Health Navigator? 


How many consumers participated in the pilot study?


What did they learn?


These and other questions will be answered in the

future editions

of ...



News you can use!


Quick Links


For more information about the SC CTSI


SC CTSI Newsletter


For more information about the OCE


OCE Newsletter


Contact Holly 


Newsletter Archives


In the first issue of MENTAL HEALTH RESEARCH: News you can Use! it was noted that the purpose of the CTSI at USC is to promote the application of scientific discoveries in real-life settings and improve health care in LA. To assist with that goal, the Office of Community Engagement's aims are to: 1. Determine the community's health-related needs and concerns and engage the community in setting research priorities, 2. Foster new community partnerships and research teams and support innovative research projects/initiatives and 3. Promote the delivery and dissemination of evidence-based approaches to treatment, prevention and health promotion in community settings. In this issue we will begin looking at scientific discoveries made by members of the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) that have been shown to improve physical and/or mental health in our community. 


First, we will learn about the Peer Health Navigator Pilot Project, led by John S. Brekke, PhD, one of the co-directors of the OCE. Other members of the research team from USC were: Louise Tallen, PhD, Project Manager, Rohini Pahwa, MA, MSW, PhD Candidate and Anthony Fulginiti, MSW, Ph.D. student. Melvin Jones, Health Navigator from DMH and Pacific Clinics, a DMH contact clinic, also worked on the project.




What is the Peer Health Navigator Pilot Project?


This project, designed by the USC team of researchers, in collaboration with Pacific Clinics, aimed to pilot test whether mental health consumers could be trained to help other mental health consumers "navigate" the physical health care system. The goal was to improve consumer's utilization of appropriate levels of physical health care (using more cost effective clinics or urgent care offices instead of more expensive emergency rooms), improve health status, improve efficacy related to accessing and utilizing health care services, and empower consumers to take control of their health care needs and service use to the greatest extent possible.


Why was it needed?


There is increasing evidence that the physical health of the severely mentally ill (SMI) in the United States is seriously compromised. Recent reports have found that individuals with SMI die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population, predominantly due to treatable medical conditions such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes. In addition to the individual consequences there are major financial implications for our local, state and national health and mental health systems as mental health consumers often over utilize the most expensive and least effective care services such as emergency rooms.


Despite the obvious need to integrate health and mental health services, few programs are pursuing integration. A promising service option is the use of peer navigators to facilitate the linkage between health and mental health services.



What are the goals of the Peer Health Navigator Project?


The ultimate goal of peer health navigation is to help individuals with serious mental illness gain the confidence, skills, tools and self-empowerment to navigate the physical health care system on their own and maintain their health and wellness goals. This, in turn, may improve the way individuals feel mentally and physically and increase their self-empowerment in other areas of their lives.


A health navigator may do this by helping people:

1. Improve their access to physical health care

2. Improve their effective use of health care services

3. Improve their ability to use the physical health care system on their own.



To do this the project combined three approaches: integrated care, patient education, and skill building. Specifically, components of the intervention included assessment and planning (i.e. developing wellness goals), coordinated linkages (i.e. navigating consumers through the healthcare system), consumer education (i.e. health and wellness issues) and the use of cognitive-behavioral strategies (i.e. modeling, successive approximation) to support health care utilization behavior change and behavior maintenance. They call this method of empowerment "for them, with them, by them".



CTSI Pilot Awards


Do you have a research idea? Would you like help developing your idea into a research project? Do you need help getting connected to a USC researcher? Do you need money for your project? The SC CTSI offers pilot awards to help support new translational research projects and teams. Letters of Intent for the next round of Pilot Awards are due on January 20th, with full proposals due on March 5th. For more information about the categories of funding go to SC CTSI WebsiteFor assistance with your proposal development contact Holly Kiger.


Submitted by Holly Kiger, RN, MN, CNS, Research Navigator, SC CTSI, Office of Community Engagement