UNCW Psychology Department Plays Integral Role in Brunswick County Program

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

UNCW psychology graduate students, led by Professor Sally MacKain, will apply their research skills to aid Brunswick County officials in evaluating a program designed to help people struggling with mental health or drug abuse problems.

Brunswick County was recently awarded a $975,000 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant to expand its innovative Treatment Courts program. The county will receive the federal funds over a three-year period.

MacKain and her team of psychology graduate students assisted with the grant proposal and have contributed substantially to measuring the impact of Brunswick’s Treatment Courts program with their expertise in research, assessment and evidence-based treatments.

The county will contract with UNCW to conduct an evaluation of the impact of the program expansion. Psychology graduate student researchers will receive a stipend as well as a unique opportunity to engage with a collaborative of law enforcement, judicial and treatment professionals.

“The collaboration between UNCW and Brunswick County contributes significantly to the mission of UNCW in serving our region,” said MacKain. “The UNCW Psychology Department shares its expertise in the areas of drug, alcohol and mental health to assist with program evaluation and research to enhance treatment outcomes and program effectiveness.”

The awarding of this federal grant to Brunswick County and the related contract with UNCW are integral to the university, as substance abuse and correct systems are two areas where psychology faculty have significant expertise and strength, said Julian Keith, psychology department chair. 

“Sally’s work on this project is in both areas. The program from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will expand services that are an alternative to incarceration for people with mental health and drug abuse problems,” he said. “The program applies previous research demonstrating that the sort of alternative that this program will offer will reduce recidivism as well as costs to the public. It also will improve quality of life for many people with mental illness and addiction problems.”

-- Venita Jenkins