University of Illinois at Chicago
Department of Psychiatry
Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy

National Research and Training Center (NRTC)

/Training and Education

Statewide Transformation Through Leadership Academy

The purpose of this UIC NRTC training project is to increase the leadership skills of people with mental illnesses so that they can more fully participate in the transformation of mental health service systems, as called for in the Report of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health ( Using an educational program called Leadership Academy, the project educates people about how to express their opinions effectively, advocate for themselves and their peers, and successfully influence political and legislative systems. It is conducted in partnership with CONTAC (, a consumer-run center that provides training, technical assistance, and other customized activities to promote recovery and leadership among people with mental illnesses.

The Leadership Academy ( offers interactive training over 3-4 days focusing on how to identify problems in organizations and communities, develop skills to publicly present ideas, form and lead groups of people, choose projects and conduct strategic planning for action, and access information to support the group's agenda. Along with leadership development, participants learn self-advocacy and empowerment skills to improve the quality of their own lives. Program graduates are encouraged to participate in local advocacy networks to create ongoing leadership opportunities. Since its adoption by CONTAC, there have been more than 400 Leadership Academy graduates in 25 states and the Virgin Islands. Nearly all Academy instructors since 1997 have been individuals with psychiatric disabilities.

The current project is supporting the development of a standardized version of Leadership Academy, including an accompanying fidelity instrument. Five states will be chosen to learn and implement this version of the training. In each participating state, the Academy's outcomes will be evaluated to determine its effectiveness in imparting knowledge and nurturing leaders. Each participating state will make a commitment to offer Leadership Academy throughout the state and encourage others to learn how to teach it in their local areas.

The UIC CMHSRP is part of the ongoing Education and Research efforts of the UIC Department of Psychiatry

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