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Activists in Action – Dr. Elizabeth Matthews

Each month, we will highlight the activism efforts of a GSS Community member and encourage others to take action in their community!
If you are a GSS student, alumni, or faculty member who would like to be highlighted for your activism efforts, please click your respective link below!

This month, we’re highlighting GSS Assistant Professor Elizabeth Matthews, Ph.D.!

Dr. Elizabeth Matthews headshot


Fragmentation in the health and mental health care system is a major barrier towards achieving high quality, cost efficient care. While significant strides have been made to facilitate greater communication between medical providers, traditional siloes separating the treatment of physical and behavioral health conditions persist, despite the fact that physical and mental health conditions often cooccur. The Affordable Care Act has funded the development of new models of care, such the Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH) and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), that are explicitly designed to incentivize care coordination and whole-person approaches to treatment. ACOs and PCMHs have been widely adopted in the past decade, but evaluations of these program models have mostly focused on the quality of medical care, making it less clear whether are effective tools for reducing fragmentation of mental health and medical treatment.

Dr. Matthews is using The National Electronic Health Record Survey (NEHRS), a nationally representative survey of outpatient providers and their use of electronic health records to answer this question. Specifically, she will use this secondary data to understand how often and under what conditions medical and mental health providers communicate about patient care, and to examine whether participation in PCMH or ACOs affect the likelihood of information exchange between physicians and mental health providers.

Findings from this research can be used to advocate for more effective mental health policies and practices in several ways. First, by highlighting barriers that might keep interdisciplinary communication from happening, practitioners, policy makers and researchers can develop and advocate for strategies to make this practice more frequent and easier. Second, examining whether current models intended to improve care coordination have the capacity to reduce fragmentation of medical and mental health care can provide important information about the effectiveness and completeness of ongoing health policy efforts, and can help stakeholders advocate for models of care that will promote quality care for individuals with mental illness.

More About Dr. Matthews:

Elizabeth (Liz) Matthews, MSW, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Social Service. She received her BA from Occidental College; her MSW from Columbia University, and her PhD from Rutgers University. Liz’s professional interests include primary and behavioral healthcare integration, person-centered care, and health information technology. Prior to her career in academia, Liz served as both a clinician and administrator in a community health and mental health center. This work has informed her current research program, which focuses on advancing social work practice in integrated health and mental health care settings, and exploring factors impacting the implementation of interdisciplinary care.

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