Amaro Appointed to Institute of Medicine Committee for Behavioral Health in Service Members

September 25, 2013
by Susan Shimotsu

Hortensia Amaro, dean's professor of social work and preventive medicine and USC associate vice provost of community research initiatives, has been invited to serve on the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Committee on the Assessment of Resiliency and Prevention Programs for Mental and Behavioral Health in Service Members and Their Families.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, the IOM committee will focus on prevention strategies to mitigate behavioral and mental health outcomes among the military personnel who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Committee members will conduct a systematic review and critique of integration programs and prevention strategies for behavioral and mental health, targeting service members and their families, and identify and evaluate models and metrics for measuring performance of these programs.

“The committee’s findings have the potential to inform and impact the development of new initiatives for services and research that will address critical issues on resiliency and prevention programs to improve mental and behavioral health in service members and their families,” said Amaro, who was elected to the IOM in 2011 and has previously served on four IOM committees. “I am thrilled to be part of this committee and feel honored to have been selected.”

Committee appointees are nominated by highly qualified members of the mental and behavioral health community and go through a strict vetting process before being selected. For this committee, the IOM was looking for individuals with expertise in psychiatry, clinical medicine, prevention, evaluation/effectiveness research, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, recovery support, substance use disorders, suicide or interpersonal violence.

Amaro, who recently received the Ernest R. Hilgard Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association’s Society for General Psychology, brings her insights from research on the integrated prevention and treatment of co-occurring disorders. Her groundbreaking research on drug addiction, mental illness and PTSD provided strong evidence that found women receiving integrated treatment for these co-occurring conditions stayed in treatment longer; had lower rates of post-treatment drug use, mental health symptoms and trauma symptoms; and had lower rates of HIV-risk behaviors. The treatment model is now part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices. She is considered a pioneer in applying research to practice and in the development of interventions for disenfranchised populations. Her research and services programs have led to real-world results that have touched the lives of many.

In addition to periodic meetings throughout the project, the 13-member committee will hold an information-sharing meeting that convenes stakeholders and topic experts associated with program evaluation and prevention efforts. And, while the study is independent from any given institution, Amaro is excited to represent the USC School of Social Work and contribute to the committee’s findings.

“Faculty participation in IOM committees is a reflection of faculty expertise and sound scientific reputation,” Amaro said. “As a faculty member in the School of Social Work, I feel that I can bring information to the committee about the highly relevant work that members of our faculty are conducting in the area of military social work.”

Amaro’s tenure on the committee runs through February 2014.