Spring 2021
THRIVing Communities: Check-in with a
2019 iTHRIV Community Seed Grant Project
by Kris Miller, iTHRIV Partnership Manager
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Mobile Autism Clinic (the MAC). Photo credit- Jennifer Scott

The iTHRIV Community and Collaboration Core’s pilot grants encourage, facilitate and fund partnerships between community organizations and iTHRIV researchers.


KJ Holbrook, LCSW, Chief Clinical Officer for Mount Rogers Community Services Board (MRCS), partnered with Virginia Tech’s Department of Psychology Professor Angela Scarpa, PhD, LCP, on a research project, entitled, Providing Mobile Diagnostic Evaluations and Psychoeducation for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Rural Southwest Virginia. The aim of the project was ‘to reduce disparities in access-to-care for parents and their children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in rural, under-resourced communities by providing geographically easier-to-access assessments and psychoeducation for the parents of ASD diagnosed children (chosen based on input from focus groups in the MRCS catchment area). Funded by one of the iTHRIV pilot grants, these collaborators were able to conduct their research project amid the COVID-19 shutdown and completed their final report in early 2021.


Jennifer Scott, Rural Outreach Coordinator for the VT Mobile Autism Clinic, states how thankful the team is, “Virginia Tech Autism Clinic and Center for Autism Research (VTCAR) is grateful to have had funding that allowed us to establish a collaborative relationship with MRCS. Both novel ASD assessment and mobile and telehealth psychoeducation delivery formats proved feasible and helped rural families overcome barriers to access, including distance and cost”.

In addition, says Ms. Scott, “the parent's knowledge of autism was improved and they felt empowered with the diagnosis, which enables them to advocate for appropriate services throughout their child's lifetime within their local community service boards and with other providers.”



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Fernwood Center, Galax, VA. Photo credit- Jennifer Scott

The results also ‘suggest that the Mount Rogers staff and the screening measure are successful in identifying children of concern. Several unanticipated challenges presented themselves, during the 2019-2020 time period, fortunately the team developed new strategies that they will utilize moving forward

VTCAR is building on a larger statewide pilot project. In addition to MRCS, many other community service boards will be included. The project explores barriers to care for those with ASD and co-occurring mental health challenges. The team has qualified for follow-on funding and looks forward to continuing their work with the community.

If you are a researcher at an iTHRIV institution and would like to learn more about community partnership opportunities, please contact Kris Miller.

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