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MentorHub: A Supportive Accountability Tool for MHapps

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R41MH126795-01A1
Agency Tracking Number: R41MH126795
Amount: $185,046.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: 104
Solicitation Number: PA18-579
Solicitation Year: 2018
Award Year: 2022
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2022-04-08
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2023-09-30
Small Business Information
Northampton, MA 01060-4085
United States
DUNS: 145188939
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (203) 982-5259
Business Contact
Phone: (203) 982-5259
Research Institution
BOSTON, MA 02125-3300
United States

 Nonprofit College or University

Project Summary/Abstract (30 lines)
In the United States, 15 million children and adolescents need psychological services; yet only one-third receive
psychological services of any kind. Even fewer receive care that is consistent with evidence-based guidelines
for best practices. This gap has widened dramatically with the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on
the mental health of children, combined with disruptions to school-based mental health services. Mental Health
Apps (MHapps) show early promise to alleviate mild to moderate forms of emotional disorders like anxiety and
depression, while improving broader domains of functioning, including academic engagement and social
competence. These MHapps are designed to promote youth mental health by delivering targeted, skills-based
curricula in an interactive and accessible format. Unfortunately, the potential for MHapps has thus far been limited
by low engagement, improper use, and high rates of noncompletion.
Caring adults can help boost youth engagement in MHapps through what behavioral scientists refer to as
“supportive accountability”—that is, regular check-ins, monitoring, troubleshooting, and other interactions.
Several studies have highlighted the positive associations between supportive accountability and user
engagement, number of logins, use of interactive tools, and outcomes. In fact, they have shown that, with
guidance, the effects of technology-delivered interventions are comparable to those obtained in face-to-face
interventions. By contrast, self-guided programs have yielded relatively fewer benefits. Moreover, the studies
have found no difference in outcomes when youth were supported by clinicians versus everyday caring adults.
Based on evidence that effectiveness and adherence to eHealth interventions is enhanced by human support,
we developed a software framework (MentorHub) that coordinates the deployment and monitors the use of
evidence-based MHapps. We anticipate that MentorHub will be widely used in youth-serving organizations (e.g.,
youth mentoring programs) and school based settings (e.g., secondary and post-secondary schools).
The proposed research in Phase I will further (Aim 1) refine the MentorHub Product to establish usability (UI/UX)
and feasibility in a large, youth mentoring program; and (Aim 2) determine the impact of the Product on youth
mental health outcomes (transdiagnostic indicators of risk for mental illness, internalizing and externalizing
symptomatology, and broader indicators of youth functioning). The pilot RCT study will test the short-term
efficacy of the product in a national youth mentoring organization (Big Brothers Big Sisters New York) and involve
300 participants (75 mentor-mentee pairs/dyads randomized to the test group and 75 mentor-mentee
pairs/dyads randomized to the control group). By the end of Phase I, we will have a tested product ready for
national testing across Big Brother Big Sisters locations and in new school-based settings. By the end of Phase
II, we anticipate a fully functioning and evaluated product ready for commercialization.Project Narrative (3 sentences)
The proposal aims to further test and develop a novel multi-sided online platform that equips youth mentors and
other caring adults with the tools necessary to support the mental health and social-emotional functioning of
youth. The academic partner has developed a model of supportive accountability focused on adherence to
technology-delivered emotional/behavioral interventions in mentor/mentee relationships. The small business
partner has developed a mobile application framework that mentors use to curate and suggest targeted
evidence-based MHapps to mentees and a systematized method to check-in, nudge, monitor and assess their
effectiveness in improving mental/behavioral health issues.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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