UNM / MRN Target NM Mental Illness Prevention

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Provides Program Model, Support

ALBUQUERQUE, NM - The EARLY (Early Assessment and Resource Linkage for Youth) Program is a new mental health evaluation, treatment and research partnership formed between the University of New Mexico Psychiatry Department’s Center for Rural and Community Behavioral Health and the Mind Research Network (MRN).

EARLY provides education and treatment for young people and their families, and conducts research that clinicians hope will lead to earlier identification of at-risk youth resulting in a reduction in the incidence of psychosis. Bernalillo County’s EARLY Program is one of six national sites that are part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Early Detection and Intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis Program (EDIPPP).

EDIPPP is a multi-year treatment research study building the evidence for how to stop the progression of severe mental illness in its tracks, and provide greater opportunity for young people and their families to live healthy, rewarding and productive lives.

Set to commence in Albuquerque this fall, EARLY hopes to identify and treat adolescents and young adults experiencing changes in their thoughts, behavior and/or emotions that might be associated with a developing psychotic illness. An integral part of the process, EARLY trains teachers, administrators, pediatricians, primary care providers and others about early warning signs and access to services.

Clinical and treatment research services of EARLY, coordinated by UNM, include initial screening, assessment (if warranted), treatment and school/employment collaboration.

MRN Provides Imaging Research Component

The Mind Research Network adds several valuable elements to New Mexico’s EARLY Program by offering imaging and genetic research components. Youth enrolled in the program can choose to participate in MRN’s brain-imaging initiative to pinpoint brain regions that might be over- or underactive in individuals experiencing early warning signs of psychosis.

In addition, MRN’s Neurogenetics Lab hopes to eventually use the human genome to match individuals suffering from psychoses with customized treatments most likely to benefit them according to their specific genetic makeup.

"The brain imaging and genetics research adds tremendous value to the program," offers Kent Kiehl, Ph.D., MRN’s lead researcher on the program. "By including a research component, we hope to gain invaluable insight into these debilitating diseases, with the ultimate goal being early diagnoses and better targeted treatments."

"We believe that early detection of psychotic symptoms can have an enormous impact on a person’s potential development of a mental illness and may impact how that person copes with other critical life areas, such as family, school and work," adds Steven Adelsheim, M.D., EARLY Program principal investigator and professor in UNM’s Department of Psychiatry. "Moreover, early detection could mean a faster recovery, with a reduced long-term need for medications."

In addition to funding support from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s national program office, the New Mexico EARLY Program received a generous donation from Suzanne Poole, a local philanthropist.

For more information on New Mexico’s EARLY Program, visit www.earlyprogram.org.

For more information on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Early Detection and Intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis Program, visit www.preventmentalillness.org.For more information on the UNM Psychiatry Department’s Center for Rural and Community Behavioral Health, visit http://hsc.unm.edu/som/psychiatry/crcbh/

For more information on the Mind Research Network, visit www.mrn.org.

Contact: Lauren Cruse, 272-3322

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