The Dallas Early Psychosis Project has launched at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Peter O’ Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, with focused effort on treating individuals in their first episode of psychosis or those who have had several episodes within their first five years of diagnosis. Research shows that early identification and treatment of brain illness produces the most benefits for patients, and for those struggling with psychosis, this project brings hope for better quality of life.

We are energized by the potential of this innovative research led by Dr. Elena Ivleva, and we are grateful for leaders in our region who continue to inspire progress in medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

How You Can Help Make a Brighter Future

The vision of Edith and Peter O’Donnell established the Brain Institute in 2015. Now, through efforts like The Dallas Early Psychosis Project, we look forward to the next important breakthroughs. With your support, we get closer each day.

There is opportunity for you to join us in this worthy mission. As you read this, we are preparing to participate in the Communities Foundation of Texas’ 11th Annual North Texas Giving Day on Thursday, September 19, 2019. Over the past decade, this event has proven the power a connected community. North Texas Giving Day is an 18-hour online giving event designed to empower every person to give back to their community by supporting local nonprofits and causes they care about in one easy-to-use platform.

Since its inception in 2009, this online event has transformed from an idea to help raise awareness of nonprofits, to a movement that has ignited a broad culture of community-wide giving. During North Texas Giving Day, everyone has the opportunity to be a philanthropist to build a stronger and more vibrant community. You can visit their website to learn how to participate. Through advocacy or financial contribution, you can help make this year an even bigger success for North Texas.

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This article was originally posted on Center Times Plus on January 3, 2019.

UTSW psychosis project to test intensive, early stage treatment

This spring, the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute will launch a program that focuses on treating psychoses at the earliest stages, potentially transforming the way people with these disorders function in society – and improving their quality of life.

The Dallas Early Psychosis Project, to be located in the Paul M. Bass Administrative and Clinical Center, will treat individuals experiencing either their first episode of psychosis or who have experienced several episodes within five years of diagnosis.

“Evidence from brain-based biomarker studies shows that the most severe brain changes underlying psychotic disorders may occur within the first few years of illness,” said Dr. Elena Ivleva, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and the project’s lead. “This initial disease stage may correspond to an effective ‘therapeutic window’ during which individuals with a shorter duration of illness derive maximum benefits from early treatment, just as in many medical conditions like diabetes and cancer.”

With funding from UT Southwestern and federal research grants, the Department of Psychiatry project will feature an intense two-year outpatient treatment course that goes beyond medication. Modeled after the RAISE Early Treatment Program, a large-scale multisite research study implemented in 21 states, the Dallas Early Psychosis Project will be one of the first academically based programs of its type in Texas.

“Early detection and intensive psychosocial treatment services for psychotic illness are not widely available in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” Dr. Ivleva said. “With the Dallas Early Psychosis Project, we propose to set up a comprehensive early detection and treatment program for people with psychotic disorders in the local community, combining clinical care and research.”

In addition to medication therapy, family psychoeducation is implemented to help the patient and their families learn about the illness, reduce family stress, recognize triggers and illness signs, and develop a plan to enhance treatment success. Also, individual resiliency training for the patient provides long-term, in-depth psychotherapy focusing on goal-setting, coping mechanisms, social interactions, and personal development.

Individualized coaching will be provided to guide patients who wish to continue their education or enter the workforce. Meanwhile, group psychotherapy will incorporate social skills training designed to improve social engagement and cognitive remediation that is focused on various aspects of cognitive function, such as problem-solving, memory, and learning new information.

“This is a program that helps people affected by psychosis keep engaged in productive life tasks to preserve psychosocial function while receiving treatment,” said Dr. Carol Tamminga, Chair of Psychiatry and Chief of the Division of Translational Neuroscience in Schizophrenia.

The program will target those with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder with psychotic features, and other related psychotic disorders. Specialists will be consulted prior to beginning treatment for those who may be battling substance abuse. Throughout the program, patients will have access to a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and licensed social workers who will serve as integral members of the circle of care.

The Dallas Early Psychosis Project will accept private insurance patients through self-referrals or referrals by primary care physicians, specialists, and community resource centers. In the future, Drs. Ivleva and Tamminga hope the project will be able to participate in state health care programs.

“Psychiatric illnesses are being looked at as diseases of the brain,” Dr. Tamminga said. “Treating a psychiatric illness is like treating any other medical condition.”

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Dr. Tamminga holds the Lou and Ellen McGinley Distinguished Chair in Psychiatric Research and the Communities Foundation of Texas, Inc. Chair in Brain Science.