The Institute for Policy and Governance, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies, is one of 10 groups nationwide awarded a grant as part of a new national project to provide behavioral health resources for local decision makers. The Institute for Policy and Governance was selected to participate via a national competition and peer review process.

Suzanne Lo, Mary Beth Dunkenberger, and Scott Tate of the Institute for Policy and Governance have been awarded the Community Assessment and Education to Promote Behavioral Health Planning and Education grant, also known as CAPE. The CAPE project is a collaborative effort among the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the United States Department of Agriculture, and a number of land-grant universities.

Locally, the project team will explore ways in which communities in the New River Valley; including the areas of Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski, and the City of Radford; currently gain information on behavioral health and then work with the communities to enhance access to needed information and provide pivotal information to community decision-makers.

Other pilot communities involved in the project are located in Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia.

The CAPE project, which is currently in its initial phase, will run through Oct. 31. In phase one, local decision makers and thought leaders provide input on which community behavioral health issues are important to them and how they obtain information on trends in the community. In the second phase, with assistance from the national team, the community takes an objective look at trends in local community behavioral health using the best available resources and creates a custom profile of the highest priority issues. 

Based on that research, in phase three, the local team works to raise awareness of the issues in the community. Finally in phase four, with assistance from the national team, the community explores potential ways of addressing the highest priority issues and marshals resources to begin implementation of coordinated systems to effectively reduce the incidence of the most troubling behaviors.

The project team has created a working group of local decision makers and thought leaders to be involved in the project. Those interested in participating should contact Suzanne Lo.

The CAPE project is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and facilitated by the United States Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The CAPE project supports the land-grant mission of Virginia Tech and capitalizes on the Institute for Policy and Governance’s capacity, experience, and ongoing engagement with the regional service providers, as well as numerous community and academic networks.

The Institute for Policy and Government’s project team brings a wealth of experience to the CAPE project in the New River Valley. Lo contributes expertise conducting clinical, public health, and communications research, and her background in using community participatory research techniques to benefit local and regional communities. She was also the principal investigator on the New River Valley Livability Project and is working on behalf of a regional mental health agency researching healthcare models to meet community behavioral health and primary care needs. 

The project will also build on Tate’s role as an extension specialist in Community Viability for Virginia Cooperative Extension and his research pertaining to community capacity, neighborhood development, democratic governance, and arts and culture-based development. Dunkenberger contributes her leadership in translating research and evidence-based practices to the community and agency context.

Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance is an entrepreneurial, interdisciplinary community of collaborating faculty, staff and students that conducts governance-related research, learning and engagement efforts concerning significant public challenges.



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