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Guidance Center Embarks on Research Projects

North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center has embarked on two significant children’s mental health research projects in collaboration with Columbia University.

The first project, referred to as CHARMS (Columbia Health and Adverse Reactions to Medication), utilizes a computerized interview to detect possible adverse events experienced by teenagers who take psychiatric medication. Research on medication is typically designed to test whether medication helps with or reduces symptoms for a particular disorder. There is more emphasis on: “Is he or she getting better?” than on: “Are there any side-effects?”

The methodology for reporting drug safety has lagged far behind that for assessing what works. This is the case in all areas of medicine. The goal of this research was to evaluate the effectiveness of the CHARMS, a newly developed, self administered, computerized screening instrument (with audio) for possible side effects experienced by children and adolescents who take psychotropic medications. This project was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center participated in CHARMS field trials. Dr. Prudence Fisher, principal investigator from Columbia University, is analyzing the results to measure the reliability of the test. Dr. Fisher is also principal investigator on the second project.

The second research project is Refining Child and Adolescent Diagnoses and Assessment Criteria. The American Psychiatric Association will release a new and revised version of their diagnostic manual (DSM-5) in 2013. The goal of the revision is to take account of the plethora of research that has been done over the past 20 years and make the manual useful for both clinicians (therapists, counselors) and researchers. Prior to the release of the new diagnostic manual, it is important to test the changes in empirically-sound field trials in the settings in which it will be used. Four large field trials focusing on youth will be carried out to examine the proposed changes. North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center will participate as one of two sites for New York youth. This research will be funded under a contract from the American Psychiatric Association to the Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene.

It is the vision of both research projects to enhance best practices in children’s mental health. By improving measures of medication side effects and accuracy in diagnosing children with mental health disorders, young people will be assured improvements in the help that they need when struggling with mental illness.