The national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports approximately one in five U.S. adults has any form of mental illness ( 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health), yet less than half of those with illness actually receive services. Homeless adults are disproportionately affected, with over a quarter of those living in shelters having serious mental illness and almost half having severe mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders ( 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress).
The College of Health Science’s strong partnership with the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, a local not for profit agency offering emergency shelter services, allows students to gain practical experience as interns and prepares them for a career serving vulnerable individuals. UTEP’s location on the U.S.-Mexico border presents an additional, unique opportunity for faculty and students to study mental health among migrants to the United States, as well as culturally-related coping mechanisms.
Faculty in the College of Health Sciences investigating mental health are contributing to the body of literature in this area, and have a variety of specializations, including social work practice; coping; disparities in mental health care; trauma among migrant populations; spiritual well-being; and quality of life among special populations, including veterans, caregivers and cancer survivors.
Faculty in the Mental Health research cluster are also members of the following communities of practice: Aging, Community of Engaged Scholars, Global Reach Community, Health-Focused Interprofessional Education, Mental and Emotional Well-Being, TTUHSC-EL PASO/UTEP Collaborative Research Community, and UTEP Community Engagement and Research in COVID-19.
CHS Leaders in Mental Health
Dr. Jeannie Concha
Assistant Professor of Public Health
Specialization: Mental health and coping.
Communities of Practice: TTUHSC-EL PASO/UTEP Collaborative Research Community
Dr. Cecilia Fierro
Clinical Asst. Professor of Occupational Therapy
Specialization: quality of life and caregiver burden
Communities of Practice: Aging, Health-Focused Interprofessional Education, Mental and Emotional Well-Being
Dr. Bruce Friedman
Chair and Professor of Social Work
Specialization: Spirituality, substance abuse
Dr. Hyejin Jung
Assistant Professor of Social Work
Specialization: disparities in mental health care; mental health literacy and education; mental health in subsidized housing
Communities of Practice: Mental and Emotional Well-Being
Dr. Yun-Pai "Beatrice" Lee
Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation Counseling
Specialization: Protective factors for stress in disabilities; psychosocial factors in multiple sclerosis; positive psychology in health and mental health conditions; determinants of health impacting well-being, quality of life, and life satisfaction.
Dr. Chuling Lo
Assistant Professor of Rehabiliitation Counseling
Director, Rehabilitation Counseling Program
Specialization: counselor training, mild traumatic brain injury, spiritual well-being
Dr. Yok-Fong Paat
Associate Professor of Social Work
Specialization: family health; health behavior; mental health; child well-being; social integration; altruism
Dr. Emre Umucu
Assistant Professor of Rehabiliation Counseling
Specialization: veterans; substance use disorders; severe mental illnesses; happiness; resilience; well-being; positive psychology interventions
Communities of Practice: Mental and Emotional Well-Being, TTUHS-EL PASO/UTEP Collaborative Research Community, UTEP Community Engagement and Research in COVID-19
Dr. Carolina Valencia
Director, Bachelor of Rehabilitation Sciences Program
Specialization: role of biopsychosocial factors in chronic pain and pain disparities
Ms. Cynthia Wittenburg
Specialization: pediatric and adult cancer survivorship; quality of life in cancer survivors