A $2.5 million federal grant will allow a multidisciplinary team at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) to provide prevention and treatment information about HIV, AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases to underserved individuals with substance abuse or mental disorders.
“My research is based around health disparities,” said program director and licensed psychologist Angela Heads, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “Ethnic minorities and people who identify as LGBT are at a higher risk than other populations for HIV and for having poorer outcomes related to substance use. This program will allow us to provide service to people who tend to underutilize services.”
Called the UTHealth HIV Education, Awareness, Referral and Treatment for Substance Use Disorders (UT-HEARTS) Program, it will recruit patients from the community, UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center and emergency treatment centers at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and Harris Health’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.
Patients who enroll in the program will be offered HIV testing, with counseling before and after testing, and will be assigned a case manager to assess needs. The program includes therapy for substance use disorders and relapse prevention and medication-assisted treatment for individuals who can benefit from it. Persons found to be HIV positive who are not already linked to services will be referred for medical treatment.
Medical director of the program is Michael Weaver, M.D., professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and medical director of the UTHeath Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction. Other team members are licensed clinical social worker and program evaluator Jane Hamilton, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a health services researcher at UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center; and site coordinator Mandy Hill, Dr.P.H., associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.
The project is a collaborative effort of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction (CNRA), Change Happens and the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans.
The five-year program is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1H79TI080734-01).
Enrollment will begin in January. For more information, call the CNRA at 713-486-2800.