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Inspiring Change: A community-based approach to engaging patients with serious mental illness

On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, Patrick Corrigan, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, and his research team welcomed leaders from two community organizations to Illinois Institute of Technology to celebrate the initiation of two community-based participatory research (CBPR) projects. These projects, funded through Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), a product of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, focus on improving health disparities for African Americans with serious mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

Advisory BoardAs part of the two-year grant, a 10-member advisory board of local mental health providers, African Americans with lived experience of mental illness, and Illinois Tech research staff developed a CBPR curriculum called Inspiring Change. The board created the Inspiring Change manual and workbook specifically to involve African Americans with mental illness as partners in research.

In November 2015, the advisory board facilitated two CBPR workshops in the Chicago area for potential research project leaders to learn about the Inspiring Change curriculum. Workshop attendees were encouraged to form CBPR teams and submit research proposals that could be implemented within local agencies. Two organizations were selected for research grants—Heartland Health Outreach and Emmaus Ministries—to complete their projects over a nine-month period.

Self-managed care as a key to recovery

Heartland Health Outreach Research TeamDue to the lack of information and resources, many African Americans living with mental illness are unaware of the service and tools that are available to help with their recovery and healthcare in general. Heartland Health Outreach, an organization dedicated to proving comprehensive healthcare for the most vulnerable people—those experiencing homelessness, mental illness, addition, and chronic illness—in the Chicago community, will create and evaluate a self-management program to empower African Americans with mental illness to mobilize towards wellness goals. Through a series workshops and seminars, the project aims to improve the ability to cope with mental health issues and increase confidence in accessing needed health care services. 

Health disparities for male African American survival sex workers who deal with mental health: A community-based approach

Emmaus Ministries research teamEmmaus Ministries is an organization that provides support to men who are seeking to escape survival prostitution and embrace a life of health and wholeness. Utilizing surveys and focus groups, the Emmaus project will explore the health care challenges faced by African American men with mental illness who are survival sex workers to better understand the unique health care needs of this population.

Throughout the research period, Corrigan and the advisory board will provide assistance to the two CBPR research team and in return will receive feedback from the teams on the Inspiring Change curriculum. For more information about Inspiring Change, visit

Corrigan and Illinois Tech researcher Sonya Ballentine spoke about the Inspiring Change project with the PCORI team in Washington D.C. Watch the video: