Texas State University has awarded $2 million to the director of the Center for Translational Health Research to create a central Texas mental health mapping tool

Texas State University has received $2 million for the director of the Translational Health Research Center to create a mental health map of central Texas. (Zara Flores/Community Impact Journal)

Texas State University officials on March 31 announced a prize of more than $20 million under the Consolidated Appropriations Act that was passed by the House, Senate and ultimately signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 16.

U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett’s office has begun soliciting projects throughout the district, from San Antonio to Austin, to find key projects that could have the most impact on communities, said Kate Stotesbery, deputy chief of staff. and Director of Communications for Doggett.

Among the funds awarded to the university, $2 million will be used by Melinda Villagran, director of the Texas State University Translational Health Research Center and project leader, to create a mental health map of the central Texas.

The idea came to her during the COVID-19 shutdowns that left her wondering about health issues.

“It doesn’t tell you what to think; it tells you what to think. It gives you up-to-date information to make your own decisions about a health issue,” Villagran said. “My thought was that we needed a COVID[-19] dashboard for everything.

The Dashboard will be a “one-stop-shop” resource powered by publicly available data for use by service providers, clinicians, health care institutions, policy makers, and anyone involved in understanding health issues. mental health, Villagran said.

Before writing the proposal to Doggett, Villagran met with various mental health organizations from Austin to San Antonio. Now that the university has secured funding, the aim will be to put on the map information that the organizations believe would make it a useful tool.

One of the partners that Villagran and his team will work with to collect data is Austin Public Health.

“APH is unique because they have this online open data portal where they make all kinds of data available to anyone who wants to see it or use it,” Villagran said. “It is, in my opinion, a very transparent way of helping people who live in this region to learn more about health problems. But again, they may not have the training or the time to sift through all the data.

Overall, the goal is to localize data in ways that help mental health service providers, community members, and decision-makers understand and use the best and most up-to-date data to make decisions. enlightened.

Over the past six months, the Center for Translational Health Research has worked hard to receive international accreditation from the Data Science Council of America, which was finally awarded on April 6.

“It will allow us to tap into the best data scientists to build this project,” Villagran said. “We just want to make sure that we have the best people, the best process, and that we’re very inclusive of the community groups that really matter to us because they’re the ones who are going to use it.”

The team consists of Villagran, a psychologist, a health administration person, and an IT person, for now, but they will continue to grow once they receive funding.

“We feel incredibly lucky to be able to work on this, and what we do at the State of Texas is applied health research. Our mission is rooted in applied health research with community partners, and it’s a perfect way for us to research and work on things that can truly positively impact the health of people in Central Texas. “said Villagran.

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