Public Mental Health

Public health page


The Southeast Mental Health Technology Transfer Center, based in Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, focuses on using a public health framework to develop leadership capacity and train providers with the goal of improving care for individuals with mental health conditions throughout the 8 states of HHS Region IV. 


What is Public Mental Health?

There are two key dimensions to public mental health.  First, it means ensuring a central role for mental health in all public health initiatives. This includes addressing natural and human-made disasters, as well as including mental health as part of the effort to address the overall health of the population. The Southeast MHTTC partnered with the Region IV Public Health Training Center (PHTC) and SAMHSA’s Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC) to develop resources addressing the aftermath of public health disasters including a two-part webinar series focusing on natural disasters and human-created disasters and an accompanying Mental Health Response fact sheet.


Second, it means taking a systems perspective when working to improve population outcomes.  Adults and children treated in the public mental health sector face a number of challenges including poverty and social isolation, stigma, obstacles in accessing general health and mental health services, and adverse health behaviors.  These difficulties lead to adverse public health outcomes including reduced quality of life and shortened lifespans.   Improving these outcomes requires understanding potential facilitators and barriers to the uptake of best practices including state and federal policies, the structure and functioning of public sector delivery systems (including its workforce), and financing.  Implementation strategies that account for systems-level challenges are needed to ensure the uptake of evidence-based practices in public mental health settings. 


As a part of a Regional Needs Assessment, the Southeast MHTTC is mapping the public sector mental health infrastructure of the Region IV states and developing provider trainings based on states’ preferences to build mental health leadership capacity across the region.


Why is a Public Health Approach Needed in the Southeast United States?Region 4 map

With eight states and 20% of the U.S. population, Region IV is the largest HHS region.  These states have high rates of poverty, adverse health behaviors, and racial and ethnic health disparities.  Relative to this need, the Southeast has relatively few resources available.  A public health strategy is needed to optimize the impact of training and support activities in the region.


What sorts of Public Health experience and expertise can the Southeast MHTTC Provide?

The Southeast MHTTC project team, expert consultants, and community partners have extensive experience in developing, testing, and disseminating evidence-based practices for adults and children treated in public sector settings as well as expertise in understanding quality, financing, and health policies in the public mental health sector.


Regional Resources

Region IV Addiction Technology Transfer Center: Provides technology transfer activities to increase the awareness, knowledge and skills of substance use practitioners and pre-service professionals.

Region IV Prevention Technology Transfer Center: Provides training and technical assistance services to individuals and organizations in the substance misuse prevention field.

Region IV Public Health Training Center: Provides public health workforce trainings within the Southeast.


National Resources

MHTTC National Coordinating Office:  Provides leadership, infrastructure, and support to the MHTTC Network.

SMI Adviser: Provides access to education, data, and consultations from a national network of experts to help clinicians, patients, and families make evidence-based treatment decisions.

Disaster Technical Assistance Center: DTAC helps states, U.S. territories, tribes, and local providers plan for and respond to behavioral health needs after a disaster.


Relevant Readings

Wahlbeck, K. (2015). Public mental health: the time is ripe for translation of evidence into practice. World Psychiatry, 14(1), 36-42.

Purtle, J., Klassen, A. C., Kolker, J., & Buehler, J. W. (2016). Prevalence and correlates of local health department activities to address mental health in the United States. Preventive medicine, 82, 20-27.