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Cuffe using CDC grant to study mental health issues among local children

Published: December 11, 2014 By: Ellen Kirkness
Steven P. Cuffe, M.D., FACPsych

Steven Cuffe, MD, professor and chair of psychiatry at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, is using a $500,000 federal grant to study the prevalence of mental health issues among children in Duval County Public Schools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded Cuffe the grant in August.

The study, Project to Learn about Youth, will begin by screening 9,000 DCPS children, aged 5 to 17, by asking teachers to complete questionnaires about the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of their students. Based on teacher reports, Cuffe and his team will invite about 600 children and families to participate in thorough diagnostic interviews.

Interviewers will ask questions to gauge the prevalence of bipolar disorder, ADHD and other conditions. In addition, the diagnostic assessment will look into the current treatment patterns, including therapy and medication, recommended for children diagnosed with mental health disorders. The study will assess the amount of abuse, misuse or diversion of medication occurring locally.

“We want to determine the extent of mental health problems in the community and use that information to develop school-based interventions to improve the treatments of mental health issues in adolescents and children,” Cuffe said.

The Disability Research and Dissemination Center at the University of South Carolina is handling the contracts and the disbursement of grant funding, which will be split evenly over two years.

In addition to Cuffe, the study’s principal investigators are fellow COMJ faculty Emma Robertson Blackmore, PhD, a research assistant professor of psychiatry; and Dale Kraemer, PhD, a research associate professor of neurology. Rebecca Glassman, MPH, a recently hired research coordinator, is the project manager.

Since the grant took effect Sept. 30, faculty have collaborated with DCPS administrators on selecting which schools will be used for the screening. Researchers are now awaiting project approval by the Institutional Review Board.

“The school district and the university are excited to be working together on this grant,” Cuffe said.

Steven P. Cuffe, M.D., FACPsych

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