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Building and Sustaining a Digital Mental Health Ecosystem of Equity


MAY 20, 2022

Karen L. Fortuna, PhD, LICSW
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Dartmouth College

Robert M. Walker, MS, COAPS
Massachusetts Department of Mental Health

About the Presentation: Mobile health (mHealth; i.e., mobile devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants, and other wireless devices) is a promising approach to facilitate monitoring of mental health conditions, support people, offer early diagnosis, and provide psychoeducation. Yet, some groups may fail to benefit despite high need for mental health services, including people representing racially disadvantaged groups, rural residents, those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and people with disabilities. This seminar will discuss the development of an international community-based participatory research partnership with patients, peer support specialists, caregivers, policymakers and payer systems that incorporates elements of mHealth design, development, and implementation to address inequities and facilitate access and uptake of mHealth across vulnerable populations.

About the Presenters:  Karen L. Fortuna, PhD, LICSW – Dr. Fortuna is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Dartmouth College and Co-Founder of the Collaborative Design for Recovery and Health. As an international collaborative of patients, peer support specialists, caregivers, policymakers and payer systems, the Collaborative uses community-based participatory research to facilitate the development, evaluation, and implementation of digital tools that leverage mobile health to address needs identified by community members from vulnerable populations (

Dr. Fortuna has approximately 100 peer-reviewed publications co-authored with patient partners, and averages 1-2 invited presentations per month (and over 100 presentations) at both national and international scientific meetings (including invited presentations at SAMHSA, NASMHPD, and many other organizations).  Dr. Fortuna has received funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), National Institute of Mental Health, American Federation of Aging, Brain and Behavior Foundation, Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development, and the New York Academy of Sciences. Overall, she has been responsible for conducting or collaborating on more than 30 research projects including topics such as self-management, patient engagement in digital technologies, user-centered design and community-engaged research, and has pioneered a new field of study “digital peer support”.

Dr. Fortuna is co-Chair of the Patient Engagement National Advisory Council to PCORI, in which she is currently co-leading a project to update the community engagement standards and integrate these updates to the PCORI Engagement Matrix.  Dr. Fortuna is an invited member to PCORI’s Patient-Centered Approach Methods Committee, American Psychiatric Association’s Smartphone App Advisory Panel, Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts Advisory Panel, and Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft Research Group Die Offene Tür ‘s Open Innovation international advisory panel. She is also a member of the Digital Health Measurement Collaborative Community, in which she is working with the Digital Medicine Society and the Food and Drug Administration to develop best practices in diversity, equity and inclusion in digital health measurement.  Dr. Fortuna was the recipient of the Japanese Agency for Medical Research and Development Research Proposal of the year, Ally of the Year Award from the Western Mass Peer Network, Alvin R. Tarlov & John E. Ware Jr. Award in Patient Reported Outcomes, and the Faculty Achievement Award from the National Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work.

Robert M. Walker, MS, COAPS – Mr. Walker is a person with a lived experience of a serious mental illness, and is Co-Founder of the Collaborative Design for Recovery and Health. Mr. Walker partners scientists across the country to advance the research of peer support. Through this process, Mr. Walker has developed expertise in patient-centered outcomes research, and has co-produced a series of tools to advance peer support throughout the world—including the (a) Digital Peer Support Certification, in which 3000 peer support specialists from 40 states and 10 countries have been trained in digital peer support competencies, access to technologies, digital literacy, ethics, privacy and confidentiality, and transparency and informed consent; (b) the PeerTECH app designed to facilitate the peer-delivery of evidence-based self-management to adults with serious mental illness; and (c) the Supporting Older Adults Remotely app designed to support Certified Older Adult Peer Support Specialists in the delivery of digital peer support to older adults with serious mental illness. Mr. Walker has over 20 peer-reviewed publications and commonly is an invited presenter at national and international meetings. Mr. Walker also works to advance the peer support workforce in Massachusetts with the Department of Mental Health. Mr. Walker is Co-PI on a PCORI project to develop the first-ever patient-led research agenda to address the early mortality health disparity experienced by people with serious mental illness.