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Places For People Shares Research Study Results at SSWR Conference

Members of the Places for People Research and Evaluation team presented last weekend at the 23rd Annual Conference for the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) in San Francisco, CA.

“It’s enjoyable to learn from others how to better promote social welfare,” Places for People Research and Evaluation Team Leader Nathan Dell, AM, MSW, LCSW, said of the conference. “While the content of the presentations—depression, traumatic stress—can be difficult to think about, let alone experience, the hope is that we can discover how to create systems and treatments that facilitate recovery.”

For more than 20 years, SSWR has held an annual conference with attendees from all over the U.S. and countries from around the world. The conference is dedicated to improving and supporting social work research for the advancement of social welfare practices and programs.

“It was one of the most educating and inspiring events of my career,” said Places for People Research Interviewer Allison Murphy, MSW, LMSW. “I am so proud to have had the opportunity to share what amazing things we do at Places for People with other researchers throughout the country.”

It was one of the most educating and inspiring events of my career.

Allison Murphy, Research Interviewer

The experience provided Murphy with a meaningful learning opportunity that will impact her future work at Places for People. “It inspired me to consider the person-served’s voice when considering research questions. Research and evaluation projects are most powerful and most effective when they are person-centered and driven by the needs of persons-served and clinicians rather than derived from the interests of academics,” Murphy said. “When evaluations are driven by the populations that we serve, the quality of our services as well as persons-served outcomes will improve.”

The presentations were the final step in a process that began in April 2018 with the submission of project abstracts.

Each presentation covered a unique topic:

  • the contribution of loneliness to depression in older adults diagnosed with serious mental illness
  • the relationship between depression and PTSD symptoms among chronically homeless and have a severe mental illness
  • a review of the core features and functionality of systematic review management software

Murphy and PFP Research Interviewers Michelle Pelham, MSW, presented the first study, which has also been accepted for publication in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal. Funded by the Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis, this study explored the contribution of social and emotional loneliness to depression in adults age 50 and older living with severe mental illness. Loneliness is important to study because it is associated with poorer health and mental health outcomes among older adults. This is also concerning because there continues to be an increase in the older adult population experiencing severe mental illness, straining the resources in the current mental health service system. Participants in the study who experienced emotional loneliness were also found to have more depressive symptoms.

To address the symptoms of depression, participants received geriatric psychiatric care, community-based case management to improve daily living activity abilities, and group socialization and skill-building activities to improve social functioning. Participants in general experienced improvements to depression and feelings of loneliness over time. This suggests increasing staff understanding of working with older adults with SMIs and implementing effective interventions may contribute to a decrease in depressive symptoms for this population.

The second study, presented by Dell, examined the relationship between post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms using the results of PfP’s 3-year SAMHSA-funded project that expanded services for adults experiencing chronic homelessness. This grant allowed for the facilitation of permanent housing and services for overall health to more than 200 persons who are chronically homeless and living with mental health, substance use, and other co-occurring disorders. The project provided comprehensive and recovery-oriented services to participants using the evidence-based treatment method of the Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA), which focuses on environmental factors that often influence one’s drinking and drug use.

Almost 70% of those enrolled in the program had stable housing when discharged. Also, participants made significant progress in substance use treatment before being discharged. Overall, those working with participants in the program have seen an increase in happiness and wellness and a reduction in harm.

Finally, Dell also presented the last study that reviewed the functionality of different systematic review management software and explored the risks and possibilities of automation bias in the conduct of systematic reviews. Systematic reviews are a type of literature review that rigorously and comprehensively assesses the research literature to answer a range of research questions. Studies are systematically searched, selected, appraised for quality, and synthesized, providing researchers, clinicians, and policy makers with up-to-date and relevant information about, for example, the state of the evidence about evidence-based treatments.