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Sep 2, 2020

When it comes to serious mental illness (SMI), mental health professionals work hard to help remove the associated negative stigma, and to educate patients and caregivers to help them thrive. In this episode, we interview two clinical experts who are part of an interdisciplinary team at the APA/SMI Advisor program. This joint initiative between the American Psychiatric Association and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMSHA is an innovative clinical support program for clinicians, caregivers, and patients with serious mental illness.  In this episode, we discuss the topic of serious mental illness with two mental health experts, Dr. Donna Rolin and Dr. Joseph Ventura. We also discuss their upcoming joint-presentation at this year’s APNA, on the importance of incorporating the Basic Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) into practice.  

Donna Rolin, Ph.D. is Clinical Associate Professor and the Director of the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program at the University of Texas with 23 years of experience in psychiatric nursing. She is co-leading inter-disciplinary graduate training initiatives with Schools of Nursing, Medicine, Educational Psychology, Social Work, and Pharmacy with funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board aiming to expand a culturally diverse workforce for underserved populations. She serves as the Co-Director of the Institute for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (IDVSA), working alongside Schools of Social Work, Law and Bureau of Business Research. Dr. Rolin’s current research focuses on wellness self-management for mental health promotion and the integration of telepresence robots in healthcare education.

Dr. Rolin serves on the national Board of Directors of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association and the local Board of the Directors of the Psychiatric Advanced Practice Nurses of Austin. Dr. Rolin continues her clinical practice as a Psychiatric Advanced Practice Registered Nurse with a community-based group working with underserved patients with serious mental illnesses (SMI), neurocognitive disorders, and intellectual disabilities in outpatient, long term care, telepsychiatry, and inpatient psychiatric facilities. She acts as the SMI Nursing Expert on the American Psychiatric Association’s Clinical Support Services for SMI (CSS-SMI) Clinical Expert Team.

Joseph Ventura, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist and Research Scientist with expertise in the assessment and treatment of individuals with serious mental illness. Dr. Ventura is the Director of Cognitive Training and Diagnosis and Symptom Assessment for the UCLA Aftercare Program. His areas of expertise include cognitive remediation, assessment of neurocognitive functioning, psychiatric diagnosis, symptom assessment, recovery from mental illness, and evaluation of functional outcomes in the early phase of schizophrenia. Dr. Ventura has led research funded by several agencies most notably the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Brain and Behavior Foundation (formerly NARSAD). His research has concentrated on stressful life events, positive and negative symptoms, neurocognition, social cognition, cognitive training, and predictors of course and functional outcome. Dr. Ventura has played a major role in the development and publication of methods for standardizing diagnostic and symptom assessment training and for ongoing quality assurance. His recent work focuses on clinical correlates of the core features of serious mental illness, dimensions of social cognition, inflammatory biomarkers, the development of interview-based assessments of cognitive functioning, and factors that are associated with recovery from serious mental illness. Recently, he was awarded a US Fulbright Scholar Grant to develop a program promoting early assessment, identification, and prevention of mental illness in clinical high-risk populations in North Africa. Dr. Ventura has published widely in peer-reviewed journals, lectured extensively, and conducted numerous training workshops both nationally and internationally.

UCLA Aftercare Program:

The UCLA Aftercare Program (brochure attached) is a joint clinical and research program located in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry specializing in the treatment of people who are in the early phase of schizophrenia or a related psychotic disorder. For over 30 years, and through NIMH and industry funding, our Aftercare treatment team has been providing comprehensive services to schizophrenia patients most of whom are transitional age youth (late teens or early twenties). However, we can serve patients from age 18 to 45. Our primary treatment aim is to assist patients with symptomatic and functional recovery after experiencing a first psychotic episode or who are within 2 years of the first onset of psychotic symptoms. 

The Aftercare program provides a comprehensive set of treatment services to eligible patients including regular visits with a psychiatrist, anti-psychotic medication (second generation), case management, various forms of psychosocial interventions including group and individual therapy, a cognitive training program that is in some cases boosted by an aerobic exercise program, family education and support, and transportation to UCLA. Our clinic psychiatrists are Laurie Casaus, M.D. and Margaret Distler, M.D. Additional Aftercare services include, supported employment and supported education programs, family therapy, and providing research updates to family members. We can provide all of these services for up to two years at no cost to the patient or family because we are funded.  

The Aftercare clinic is headed by members of the UCLA Department of Psychiatry, Keith Nuechterlein, Ph.D., Kenneth Subotnik, Ph.D., Luana Turner, PsyD., Joseph Ventura, Ph.D, who have been providing these services through the Aftercare Program for many years to early course patients. Rebecca Zornitsky, MSc. is our Community Liaison Specialist along with Taylor Jester and Elaine Clarke.

APA/SMI Adviser Site & Resources:

Clozapine Center of Excellence:

Long-Acting Injectable (LAI) Antipsychotics Center of Excellence:

How to download SMI Adviser App:



How to download My Mental Health Crisis Plan (Psychiatric Advance Directive [PAD]) App



APNA Annual Meeting Presentation on Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS)

Annual Meeting 9/30 – 10/4/2020 (Virtual)

Presentation on BPRS – Dr. Joseph Ventura & Dr. Donna Rolin

Thursday, 10/1 @5pm ET

2034: Advanced Practice
5:00pm ET - 5:45pm ET

Using the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) as a Symptom Assessment Tool in Measurement-Based Care – RN, APRN

This interactive presentation teaches participants to rate psychiatric symptoms using a structured interview, the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale. The goal is to build and/or expand assessment skills for rating initial symptom severity and for monitoring symptom change over time to improve quality of treatment within a measurement-based care approach.  Abstract

Presenters: Joseph Ventura, PhD; Donna Rolin, PhD, APRN, PMHCNS-BC, PMHNP-BC