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Riverside Joins MGH Study to Prevent COVID-19 in Congregate Settings

Riverside looks forward to collaborating with the Mongan Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital on this study that will benefit vulnerable populations.

Mongan Institute Receives $4.9 Million to Study Best Practices to Prevent COVID-19 in Staff and Residents with Serious Mental Illness and Developmental Disabilities in Congregate Living Settings

A research team led by Dr. Stephen Bartels, the James J. and Jean H. Mongan Endowed Chair of Health Policy and Community Health, Professor Medicine, and Director of the Mongan Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, has been approved for a $4.9 million funding award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to determine best practices to prevent COVID-19 for people with serious mental illness and developmental and intellectual disabilities in congregate living settings and for the staff who provide care.

“People with serious mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities in group homes are among the highest risk groups in the nation with conditions vulnerable to COVID-19 and poor health outcomes,” said Dr. Bartels.

“In partnership with behavioral health organizations and patients, families, state agencies, and advocacy groups, our team of investigators at Mongan—spanning data science to health care delivery research—will conduct a two-year study will determine the most effective approaches to reducing COVID-19 risk and improving outcomes for these highly vulnerable populations, and for the staff who provide care.”

Dr. Bartels will oversee the study with co-principal investigator Dr. Brian Skotko, the Emma Campbell Endowed Chair on Down Syndrome and Director of the Down Syndrome Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Bruce Bird, CEO and President of Vinfen, will lead the community partnerships, involving approximately 400 group homes with 2,000 residents and 3,000 staff across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Six partnering behavioral health and developmental disability organizations will participate in the study (Vinfen, Bay Cove Human Services, Riverside Community Care, North Suffolk Mental Health Associates, Advocates, and Open Sky Community Services), in conjunction with the Massachusetts Departments of Mental Health and Developmental Services, Mass Advocates Standing Strong, The Arc of Massachusetts, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of Mental Health, and the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress.

In addition to determining the effectiveness of tailoring approaches to the specific needs of people with serious mental illness and developmental and intellectual disabilities, the study team will also work to develop approaches that address COVID-19 health disparities that may be associated with race, ethnicity, and degree of disability.

“This project was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit and commitment to engaging patients and other stakeholders, but also for its potential to fill an important gap in our health knowledge and give people information to help them weigh the effectiveness of their care options,” said PCORI Executive Director Nakela L. Cook, MD, MPH. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with the Mongan Institute at MGH to share the results.”

The award has been approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract. PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions.

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