STARR News & Updates

March 2024

Site Spotlight:

North Texas Clinical Trials (NTXCT) - Winner of the STARR Site of the Year Award

With patient engagement and community involvement more important than ever, one site has integrated it into their core values. North Texas Clinical Trials (NTXCT), nestled in the heart of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, has been named the STARR Site of the Year, a recognition that celebrates their unwavering commitment to patient care and community engagement.


NTXCT, an independent clinical research site, has distinguished itself through its team’s dedication to their patients and the local community. They consistently go above and beyond to ensure their patients feel valued and cared for, something that has not gone unnoticed. The fact that patients feel 'spoiled' by the NTXCT team is a testament to the site's patient-first approach.


Engagement doesn't stop at the clinic's doors; NTXCT is deeply involved in the local community, hosting monthly events that many of us have had the pleasure of reading about in the STARR newsletter. Their dedication to the STARR Certification process is equally commendable. From participating in STARR 911 training to conducting the Auditory Hallucination Simulation empathy exercise, NTXCT has embraced every opportunity to enhance their team's understanding and empathy towards the patients' experiences.


Two standout initiatives have been their utilization of the STARR-provided community resources list to create informative posters for their lobby, ensuring that valuable information is accessible to all who visit. Also, their active participation in the Research Ambassadors program has fostered long-term relationships with their patients, empowering them to be active partners in their healthcare journey and the broader mission of discovering new treatments.


Jessica Anderson, the NTXCT Site Director, accepted the STARR Site of the Year award on behalf of her team. “One of top priorities this year was to actively engage with the community and the STARR is a big part of that”, said Jessica in her award acceptance speech. She continued, “our team's collective efforts have truly made a difference in the lives of our patients and the local community.”


Congratulations to the entire team at North Texas Clinical Trials for your dedication to your patients, outstanding contributions to your community, and exemplary member of the STARR community! Your efforts are not only advancing medical science but are also making a profound difference in the lives of many.

News from the Certified Sites

CenExel RCA shared the big news of their new 15,000 square foot, 14 bed inpatient unit with an enclosed balcony at the CenExel RCA site in Hollywood, Florida! CenExel RCA is thrilled to expand their capabilities to continue

to do inpatient CNS trials in indications like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and addiction. And to help the patients and the staff celebrate the new digs, the team had a festive Valentine's Day layout!

Segal Trials made a remarkable impact at the Latina Expo 2024, engaging in the "Breaking Barriers: Empowering Health through Information" panel. This panel emphasized the critical role of diversity in clinical research and its importance in enhancing healthcare for everyone, highlighting Segal Trials' commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

Segal Trials' Tabatha Cirgenski-Ruiz and Danielle Recasens joined forces with Latina industry leaders, including Jurandir Arauio from Otsuka Pharmaceutical and Dr. Geraldine Luna from the Chicago Department of Public Health, to provide valuable insights on the topic.

Beyond the discussion, Segal Trials also provided free Mental Health Screenings, contributing further to the event's impact.

CenExel ACMR hosted a Community Celebration at the CenExel ACMR site! Patients, their families and friends, and the whole community had a fun afternoon of food, games, and giveaways. In addition to the Kona Ice mobile being on-hand to give out free Kona Ice, and plenty of festival foods, CenExel ACMR offered the community an opportunity to learn more about the ACMR facility and the great clinical trial work supporting all generations that they do.

What a great way to kick off the Spring!

Richmond Behavioral Associates (ERG) had an amazing February with a bunch of fantastic community events! They kicked the month off at the Salvation Army Jamaica (NY) food pantry, providing healthy food for those in need. Just a couple days later, they hosted an info table at a NAMI-NYC event in Manhattan (pictured).

They followed those up with an info table at the Coney Island Black History Event at the Liberation Diploma Plus High School and an info table and presentation at the Red Oak Senior Center in Manhattan, NY (both pictured).


Katerina Lehky

to The STARR Coalition!

The STARR Coalition is thrilled to announce the newest addition to our team, Katerina Lehky, stepping into the pivotal role of Director of Community Engagement. Katerina brings a vibrant energy that promises to further invigorate our mission and we can’t wait for you to experience the positive impact of her work.


Katerina is not a new face to many within our community. Her contributions during her time with the CNS Summit, alongside Erica, have left a lasting impression. There, she played a crucial role in expanding the community, enhancing community engagement, and building strong, collaborative relationships across various stakeholders in clinical research.


Her articulate communication skills, coupled with a delightful sense of humor, make Katerina not just an effective leader but also a joy to collaborate with. Her enthusiasm and dedication to the STARR community make her a valuable resource and advocate for our collective goals.


For those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Katerina, we encourage you to reach out. Her approachability and eagerness to connect make her an excellent point of contact for anyone looking to engage more deeply with our work or to find ways to contribute to the mental health research field.


As we welcome Katerina to her new role, we look forward to the fresh perspectives she brings and the momentum she will undoubtedly generate towards our shared vision. Her background, skills, and passion for mental health advocacy are exactly what The STARR Coalition needs to propel us into the future of mental health research and community engagement.


Please join us in giving Katerina a warm welcome. Email her at

March is


Awareness Month

This is the 36th year that March has been recognized as National Disability Awareness Month, with nationwide events to increase public awareness of the contributions and the potential of people with disabilities and address the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live.

Everyone wants, and deserves, to enjoy life, and feel productive and secure. But in March, we take extra steps to raise awareness around the inclusion of people with disabilities in all facets of life.

This month, consider how you might help someone living with a disability to thrive and to have opportunities to live their best possible life.

Brain Awareness Week is the global campaign to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science. Every March, participants host imaginative activities in their communities that share the wonders of the brain, and the impact brain science has on our everyday lives.

The Dana Foundation toolkit is designed to help make your Brain Awareness Week event a success. You’ll find materials to promote your event on social media and get people excited about Brain Awareness Week 2024. You can also find Brain Awareness Week logos, Zoom backgrounds, and a Facebook cover photo to further spread awareness HERE.

Guideline details new recommendations for PTSD and acute stress disorder. A synopsis of new clinical guidelines from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) details 34 recommendations for treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and co-occurring conditions. The VA/DoD guidelines notably recommend the use of specific manualized psychotherapies over pharmacotherapy and recommend against the use of benzodiazepines, cannabis, or cannabis-derived products. The synopsis is published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Specific support cells in brain can regulate behaviors involved in some human psychiatric disorders. UCLA Health researchers have discovered a group of specialized support cells in the brain that can regulate behaviors associated with human neuropsychiatric disorders. The study found that Crym-positive astrocytes in the central striatum regulated neurotransmitter communication at synapses from the cortex to the center of the brain within the striatum.

Scientists discover neural pathway that explains the escalation of fear responses. Threat-induced behaviors, including freezing and flight, are controlled by neuronal circuits in the central amygdala (CeA)2; however, the source of neuronal excitation of the CeA that contributes to high-intensity defensive responses is unknown. used a combination of neuroanatomical mapping, in vivo calcium imaging, functional manipulations and electrophysiology to characterize a previously unknown projection from the dorsal peduncular (DP) prefrontal cortex to the CeA. DP-to-CeA neurons are glutamatergic and specifically target the medial CeA, the main amygdalar output nucleus mediating conditioned responses to threat. Using a behavioural paradigm that elicits both conditioned freezing and flight, we found that CeA-projecting DP neurons are activated by high-intensity threats in a context-dependent manner.

Study finds more kids, teens may be taking multiple psychiatric meds. In the study, Maryland kids ages 17 or younger experienced "a 4% increased odds of psychotropic polypharmacy per year from 2015 to 2020," reported a team led by Yueh-Yi Chiang, a graduate student at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. Chiang's group tracked prescription data for nearly 127,000 Medicaid enrollees under the age of 18 between 2015 and 2020. Those receiving multiple psychiatric drugs during that time rose from 4.2% in 2015 to 4.6% five years later. "Individuals who were disabled or in foster care were significantly more likely than individuals with low income to receive three or more psychotropic classes overlapping for 90 days or more," Chiang's group noted.

Network analysis highlights the key role of plasticity in the transition from depression to mental health. Researchers at Istituto Superior di Sanita' recently set out to explore the role of plasticity, the ability of the brain to change in response to new experiences and environmental factors, in the recovery from depression. An analysis of the STAR*D dataset found that baseline connectivity strength was weaker in responder patients than non-responder patients. Moreover, connectivity strength was inversely correlated with improvement in depression score and susceptibility to change mood according to context. This operationalization of plasticity provides a mathematical tool to predict resilience, vulnerability and recovery, and to develop novel approaches for the prevention and treatment of major depressive disorder.

Study shows physical activity can counteract the negative consequences of being alone. Researchers from the Central Institute of Mental Health (CIMH) in Mannheim, in collaboration with scientists from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) and the University of Bern, have investigated the extent to which physical activity can mitigate the negative effects of being alone on affective well-being. The findings extend the state of knowledge on the dynamic interplay of social contact and physical activity in daily life identifying an accessible protective strategy to mitigate the negative effects of social isolation, particularly among at-risk individuals, which comes with the potential to improve public health in the post-pandemic world.

SHARP research project finds improved mood, cognitive function, and mental health among older Black adults is achieved through walking, socializing. An innovative Oregon Health & Science University research program that enlists older Black adults to walk through and reminisce about historically Black neighborhoods in Portland—which now look very different after rapid change through gentrification—may help improve cognitive function, a new study finds. Now, new research suggests it may improve brain health in a population that's disproportionately affected by Alzheimer's disease. The study, published online in The Gerontologist, reveals that participants not only improved their health and mood, but researchers also measured improvements in cognitive function among those who started the study with mild memory loss.

Personalized virtual reality in palliative care showed clinically meaningful symptom improvement of pain and depression symptoms for more than 50% of the cohort. The study examined the effects of virtual reality (VR) among palliative care patients at an acute ward. Objectives included evaluating VR therapy benefits across three sessions, assessing its differential impact on emotional versus physical symptoms and determining the proportion of patients experiencing clinically meaningful improvements after each session.

The National Academies released the workshop proceedings in brief titled Mitigating Health Disparities in Brain Disorders starting with Basic Science. The publication summarizes the discussions from the Forum’s satellite event held in conjunction with the SfN annual meeting in November 2023.

Analysis finds discrimination impairs mental health directly and indirectly. Until recently, there was some indication that discrimination negatively affects a person's mental health and well-being. With a meta study, researchers of the University of Mannheim show the clear negative effects of discrimination for the first time. The results of the systematic meta study by Christine Emmer, Julia Dorn, and Dr. Jutta Mata, holder of the chair of Health Psychology at the University of Mannheim, show that discrimination directly and indirectly impairs mental health.

Researchers improved genetic tests to more accurately assess disease risk regardless of genetic ancestry to tackle health disparities. To prevent an emerging genomic technology from contributing to health disparities, a scientific team funded by the NIH has devised new ways to improve a genetic testing method called a polygenic risk score. Since polygenic risk scores have not been effective for all populations, the researchers recalibrated these genetic tests using ancestrally diverse genomic data. As reported in Nature Medicine, the optimized tests provide a more accurate assessment of disease risk across diverse populations.

Smartphone app uses AI to detect depression from facial cues. Dartmouth researchers report they have developed the first smartphone application that uses artificial intelligence paired with facial-image processing software to reliably detect the onset of depression before the user even knows something is wrong. Called MoodCapture, the app uses a phone's front camera to capture a person's facial expressions and surroundings during regular use, then evaluates the images for clinical cues associated with depression. In a study of 177 people diagnosed with major depressive disorder, the app correctly identified early symptoms of depression with 75% accuracy.

Emotionally resonant vibrotactile comfort objects as a calming social anxiety intervention. People who live with social anxiety could be given a helping hand to deal with their stress by the power of good vibrations, new research suggests. Computing scientists and psychologists from the University of Glasgow have worked with socially anxious people to prototype a series of handheld "comfort objects" in a research study. The study tested whether the objects, which pulse and vibrate in patterns that recall calming sensations like purring cats or the pitter-patter of raindrops, could offer emotional support during an anxiety-inducing presentation. The results suggest that uniquely shaped handheld objects that vibrate in ways that evoke personal emotional resonance for people may help to reduce the intensity of their feelings of anxiety in social situations.

Joshua Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., announced his decision to end his tenure as the director of the National Institute of Mental Health on June 14, 2024. Dr. Gordon has served in this role for the past eight years and will be stepping down to return to Columbia University, New York City, as Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and Psychiatrist-in-Chief of the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital campus at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Dr. Gordon also will serve as director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI).

Teva Pharmaceuticals' Mental Health Moment series features stories from people living with mental illness. Their latest video features Lesley, a mental health advocate who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2016. She discusses the importance of having a caregiver team when living this condition and how reaching out for help can make all the difference.This is one of Teva's initiatives to destigmatize and display the possibility of living well with Schizophrenia. 

People USA’s MCRT staff (Jeremy Reuling, Liz Rodriguez, Erica Covington, Zachary Johnson, and Sean Miranda) along with our Yonkers Police Department liaisons (Lt. Varley and Sgt. Spink) and partners from the Westchester Department of Community Mental Health, (LaShawna Thompson and Anthony Olagbemi) trained over 100 Yonkers Police Department officers on MCRT’s services for individuals experiencing crises. Each session was for a small cohort to promote engagement. Together we were able to provide a total of 20 sessions!

The Arkansas Chapter of AFSP is working with Jeremiah Davenport on his campaign #WHOSONYOURTEAM. Jeremiah Davenport is a 6'6 center from Cincinnati, Ohio that transferred to the University of Arkansas for his senior year. Davenport led Cincinnati twice in 3-pointers made in a season and was ranked third in the AAC in 3's made (83) while ranking fourth in 3-point percentage (.359) his junior year. After his own battle with mental illness after the loss of his father, Jeremiah believes it is his mission to bring awareness to suicide prevention and is excited to partner with the AFSP this season.

This worldwide awareness day provides us a chance to share information and resources that help eliminate the stigma around bipolar disorder and support those living with the condition on their journey to wellness. To celebrate World Bipolar Day, DBSA worked with peers living with bipolar and doctors who specialize in working with peers to develop a guide for people newly diagnosed with bipolar.

You can also find social media graphics that highlight the steps to take after a bipolar diagnosis and follow on social media to learn what young adults wish they knew about bipolar disorder when they were first diagnosed on the DBSA page here.

March is National Criminal Justice Month

Created by Congress in 2009, National Criminal Justice Month provides us all an opportunity to explore the impact of the criminal justice system on people with mental illness.

People with mental illness are overrepresented in our nation’s jails and prisons — about 2 million times each year, people with mental illness are booked into jails, with the criminal justice system - jails and prisons - becoming the largest mental health provider in the country — yet many are not receiving the care they need while incarcerated.

In 2019, Otsuka launched the Sozosei Foundation, a philanthropic arm established to fund the decriminalization of mental illness. Melissa Beck became its inaugural executive director and shares that the foundation’s focus was conceived by Dr. William H. Carson, chair of the Sozosei Foundation Board of Directors. “All of us at the foundation believe that mental health is health and that the inappropriate use of jails and prisons as America’s de facto mental health system must be addressed.”

The Sozosei Foundation provides funding for research, scaling diversion innovations, and arts and communication. They have set up a research strategy to give researchers “time and space.” “We want to allow the field to examine what we know, what we don’t know and what we wish we knew,” says Beck. The cornerstone of the research strategy is a 25-person research initiative that concludes in the summer of 2024. “A group of researchers is doing an enormous literature review, undertaking an iterative process looking at data standardization, data collection and continued gaps.” Not just of what exists, she emphasizes, but also of what is needed.

A National Judicial Task Force was established to examine hundreds of reports, analyses, and documentation on states' responses to mental illness in their courts. The task force made a number of important findings with corresponding recommendations supported by over 100 resources for courts and stakeholders. One of the resources to come from the task force is a Judges' Guide to Mental Health Diversion, which was developed with early SAMSHA and Sozosei Foundation funding. The guide is intended to serve as a resource framework for courts and judges to use to promote and implement diversion strategies for individuals with behavioral health needs in their communities. Ideally, judges would collaborate with a range of system stakeholders to examine the entire diversion continuum but could also focus on one step of the process at a time. The guide focuses on jail diversion systems, post arrest, and pre plea.

Meanwhile, NAMI launched a new campaign, Overlooked: Stories of Mental Illness & the Criminal Justice System, aims to highlight the impact of the criminal justice system on people with mental illness through personal stories from the people who lived this experience. Like one NAMI advocate from North Carolina, who shared:

“What about people that don't have a support system and they leave that jail with an untreated mental illness, having been treated poorly? Because they are behind a locked door nobody listens. I will continue to share my experience. I want to be part of the solution for people with mental illnesses that are incarcerated.”

The Sozosei Foundation is convening for the Sozosei Summit 2024 April 16-17 in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, they have reached full capacity, but you can join the waitlist, HERE. Should you be unable to join in person, the Summit recordings will be available on the Sozsoei Foundation’s YouTube soon after the event.



The STARR Coalition is pleased to help spread the word about the Rural Mental Health Resilience Program, developed by Rural Minds and the National Grange.

Recognizing the self-reliance and do-it-yourself mindset that are common among many people living in rural America, the Rural Mental Health Resilience Program provides an easy-to-access online toolkit with mental health information and resources to help rural residents improve mental health in their communities.


Rural Minds and the National Grange will present the Rural Mental Health Resilience Program Launch Webinar on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 at 6 pm CT.

CLICK HERE for more information and free webinar registration.

We encourage you to visit the program webpage and access program materials that are free to download and print. 

ASENT's 2024 Annual Meeting will be held from March 12-14, 2024 at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda, in Bethesda, MD. ASENT 2024 brings together senior leaders from healthcare payers, providers, employers, investors, fast-growing startups, big pharma, policymakers, and innovation centers to improve the process of bringing neurotherapeutics to market. Abstract Submission Deadline is January 22, 2024. For more information, click here.

Anxiety & Depression Association of America’s 2024 Annual Conference: Sex and Gender ~ Navigating the Biological and Social Constructs in Depression and Anxiety Disorders will be held April 11-14, 2024 in Boston, MA.

2024 Sozosei Summit to Decriminalize Mental Illness will be held April 16-17 in Philadelphia, PA. The Sozosei Foundation hosts the Sozosei Summit to Decriminalize Mental Illness to bring people together in order to decriminalize mental illness. Our convenings are designed to lift diverse voices and create the opportunity to learn from one another and advance solutions. We hope our culture of curiosity, creativity, and intellectual rigor supports data-driven solutions and advances a world where mental illness is not a crime.

2024 Arkansas Capitol Day brings together passionate volunteers to advocate for state policy changes that will improve mental health and prevent suicide. The group will meet with the AR state legislators as part of the event to share with them why suicide prevention is important, educate them about the work being done in our community to prevent suicide, and teach them what more must be done to prevent suicide.

ACRP 2024 will be held May 3 - May 6 in Anaheim, CA. The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) is where clinical researchers go for inspiration, education, and connection.

American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology (ASCP) 2024 Annual Meeting will be held May 28-31 in Miami Beach, FL. Registration is open, as is the Call for Submissions - Explore them all here.

NAMICon 2024 will engage, challenge and include you in dynamic discussions and inspiring moments. It will introduce you to new ideas and tools you can take with you. It’ll connect you with people who will go from strangers to community—all in the name of mental health awareness, education and advocacy. Join us June 4–6 in Denver for an unforgettable experience. Save the Date!

MHACon 2024 will be held September 19-21 in Washington D.C. and online. At this year's conference, explore ways to DISRUPT systemic barriers, REFORM harmful practices that prevent progress, and TRANSFORM the current landscape, ensuring everyone has equitable opportunity for optimal mental health and well-being.

For the last 35 years, the National Federation of Families has brought together families, parents, community leaders, providers, partners, and legislators at our Annual Conference. We work to leverage our lived experience and learned solutions for the support and advancement of families whose children – of any age – experience mental health and/or substance use challenges.

For more information on the 2024 NFF Annual Conference and submission guidelines, click HERE.

March 18, 2024 - Chat with the Chair (Register to Attend) In celebration of the American Brain Coalition's 20th Anniversary, we are delighted to invite you to a special virtual chat with Dr. Mark Rasenick, ABC's Board of Directors Chair. We will reflect on two decades of achievements, growth, and shared memories. Please join us as we reminisce about the past and look forward to the exciting journey ahead.

March 21, 2024 - Bringing Neuromodulation to the Advocacy Table (Register to Attend) A virtual webinar highlighting community engagement, advocacy efforts in the brain space, and a real-world example of collaboration between ABC and FDA.

In case you missed it: February 27, 2024 - Deep Dive into CMS (View Recording) A virtual webinar providing an important overview of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) work and regulatory agenda, and learn about opportunities for you and your organization to weigh in.

Know someone who is studying or planning to study something related to the mental health field or is pursuing a personal advocacy project?

Win from $10000 for mental health treatment, education, and/or advocacy with the

Letters to Strangers Mental Health Scholarships!

This is open to everyone as long as you apply by April 1st.

Click here for more information and to apply.

The Mental Health Changemaker Scholarship (for all 13+ year olds) is designed for someone who is studying or planning to study something related to the mental health field or is pursuing a personal advocacy project

The Mental Health Warrior Scholarship (for all 18+ year olds) is meant to offset medical and treatment costs for mental well-being for those from underserved communities.


A Stop the Stigma Champion is a high school student that has demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership by openly discussing mental health issues, challenging stereotypes, and promoting a supportive and understanding environment in their community.

Do you know a high school student that has inspired positive change and created a lasting impact on the school community regarding mental health attitudes and practices? Nominate them by April 15!

The STARR Stop the Stigma Champion winner will be announced on National Mental Health Action Day, May 16th. Visit for more information and to nominate someone!

Social Work Month in March uplifts the social workers of our country and celebrates their constant contributions to our society. Many of the patients involved in mental health clinical trials have social workers, who work tirelessly to solve social issues and improve individual lives. Social work can be emotionally draining, require long hours, and pay entirely too little, yet still, these superhumans strive every day to improve many people’s quality of life and advocate on their behalf.

Take some time out this month to recognize the social workers in your community and the great things they do for your patients!

There is still plenty of time to organize your team for this year's NAMIWalks Spring United Day of Hope!

On May 18th, communities across the country come together for NAMIWalks Spring United Day of Hope. Not only does your participation help to magnify mental health awareness and raise funds for NAMI’s programs, but NAMIWalks are excellent events to come out and engage as part of your community!


Consider being a sponsor and setting up a table with information on your site along with information on the mental illnesses that your site specializes in. This is a great way to bring the community together, offering site resources, and building trust within the community!

Find your state's NAMIWalks event HERE and team up with the mental health advocates in your community!

The mission of the STARR Coalition is to create meaningful change by increasing COMMUNICATION, PARTNERSHIPS, and GOODWILL among stakeholders in the areas of mental health clinical research, advocacy, and treatment with emphasis on community and advocacy engagement, stigma reduction, and ensuring that research is widely recognized as a trusted care option.

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