Katherine Ruiz-Mellott, MD, MPH


California Endowment Scholar in Health Policy (2005-2006)

Instructor in Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA; Psychiatrist, Bournewood Hospital, Brookline, MA

Dr. Ruiz-Mellott is the associate medical director of a newly opened free standing psychiatric hospital, the Whittier Pavilion in Haverhill, MA. Previously, Dr. Ruiz-Mellott was a staff psychiatrist with Cambridge Health Alliance and worked with the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research in Somerville, MA. She is active in community mental health and has served as the medical director and psychiatrist for the Assertive Community Treatment Program operated by Health and Education Services. She has recently begun an innovative program involving psychiatric outreach to declining elders in the community in partnership with Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley. Her clinical focus is on expanding access to care through the development of recovery oriented programs. She is actively involved in education, staff training and diversity initiatives at her institution.

Dr. Ruiz-Mellott received her medical degree in 1998 from the University of Illinois, Chicago and completed psychiatry residency training in 2004 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She received her M.P.H. degree from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2006 as a CES Scholar.

Learn more about the California Endowment Scholars in Health Policy at Harvard University


Implementing a Mental Wellness Program through California's Mental Health Services Act


To improve access to mental health services among vulnerable populations
To develop a programmatic framework for prevention and early intervention services to the California Department of Mental Health (DMH)


Disparities in mental health care contribute to a disproportionate number of minorities with behavioral health issues coming in contact with the juvenile justice system, incarceration, educational problems, and limitation on activity and potential. Early intervention and prevention programs offer a window of opportunity for clinicians and policy makers alike. Routine mental health screening among at-risk populations could significantly improve access to mental health care among minorities. How best to design and structure such a program for the California DMH recently enacted Mental Health Service Act was the focus of this practicum.


Focused interview with innovative program developers, individual providers and health care policy faculty were performed. Systematic literature review of pub med, best practices, expert consensus, foundation reports, professional organization position papers, advocacy group reports and Health and Human Services commission reports was performed. Innovative programs and early intervention programs listed on these sources and additional programs located via Google Internet search were reviewed. Data was utilized from the 2005 Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Survey and CDC vital statistics databases. These sources provided a foundation on which to develop a program framework.

Findings and Recommendations:

Numerous sources including national recommendations, programmatic data, and consensus among policy makers and clinicians alike indicate that access to mental health services could be improved through programs which offer screening, integrative services and early intervention. Integrated programs in partnership with primary care are likely to reduce disparities in mental health for minority populations. A collaborative care model emphasizing screening and early intervention is proposed based on successes in early childhood programs. The model focuses on at-risk populations treated at community health centers and emphasizes a life course. Systematic changes needed for the success of this program and funding strategies through the Mental Health Services Act are discussed and will be presented to DMH.


Penny Knapp, MD, Medical Director, California Department of Mental Health