Government to Spend $146,944 Texting Low-Income People with Depression

May 17, 2013 - 11:25 AM


Cell phone (AP File Photo)

( – The federal government is spending $146,944 in taxpayer funds to research sending automated text messages to people with depression to remind them to take their medication and monitor their mood and thoughts.

The text messages will “prompt patients to monitor mood, thoughts and behaviors.” It will also “provide medication and appointment reminders,” and send personalized cognitive behavioral therapy based tips.

“Poor adherence to depression treatments (psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy) limits their effectiveness in community settings. Problems with adherence are especially pronounced in low-income settings. Innovative and cost-effective methods are needed to improve adherence to treatments and maximize mental health resources,” the project description said.

“Mobile phone based text messaging (or short messaging service: SMS) is a ubiquitous technology that has been used in various health applications across socioeconomic status. This technology has the potential to increase the fidelity of mental health treatments via increased adherence,” it said.

“The proposed research project will test whether adding an automated SMS adjunct to group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression can increase adherence (homework adherence, attendance, medication adherence) and further reduce depression symptoms,” it added.

The $146,944 grant given to the University of California Berkeley is made up of $136,059 in direct cost and $10,885 in indirect costs and is administered by the National Institute of Mental Health.

The project starts on May 23, 2012 and ends on Feb. 28, 2017. The budget start date was March 1, 2013, and the budget end date is Feb. 28, 2014.

Phone calls to project leader Adrian Aguilera, assistant professor for the School of Social Welfare/Work at UC Berkeley, were not returned by press time.