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TREE Center

Diagram about the project

Tackling Substance Use and Mental Health in Underserved Communities 

The Transdisciplinary Research, Equity and Engagement (TREE) Center for Advancing Behavioral Health develops effective behavioral health solutions with New Mexico’s under-resourced, racially, ethnically and geographically diverse communities. 

The TREE Center partners with local, state, tribal and national leaders to:

- Improve behavioral health equity among the state’s socioeconomically disadvantaged and underserved populations. 

- Nurture community and academic ways of knowing.

- Prepare and mentor a new generation of underrepresented minority scholars for transdisciplinary multi-level intervention research. 

NIH Grant

The University of New Mexico TREE Center is one of a select 12 National Institutes on Minority Health and Health Disparities (U54 MD004811-06), September 23, 2017-June 30, 2022).

Lisa Cacari Stone, PhD, principle investigator (PI) and associate professor at the UNM College of Population Health, directs this Center of Excellence that’s funded by a five-year, $7 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant in collaboration with three other principle investigators: Steve Verney, PhD, Psychology, Maria Brave Heart, PhD, Psychiatry and Gabriel Sanchez, PhD, Political Science. 

Team-Centered Leadership

TREE Center boasts three complimentary cores that tackle complex problems while moving beyond the clinic and towards community, systems and policy interventions:

  • Community Engagement and Dissemination – Creates an information and dissemination infrastructure in order to improve how evidence-based science is collaboratively disseminated while utilizing approaches that are aligned and culturally-centered within community contexts. Contact co-directors Lorenda Belone, PhD,,  and/or Magdalena Avila,DrPH
  • Investigator Development – Dedicated to recruiting, mentoring and training post-doctoral fellows, junior faculty and other early stage underrepresented minority (URM) and non-URM investigators. Contact co-directors Matthew Borrego, PhD,, and/or Theresa Cruz, PhD,
  • Administrative – Provides leadership for the center’s overall strategic inspiration, vision and oversight using a community-based multi-level intervention approach as well as the core principles of transdisciplinary research. Contact Director, Lisa Cacari Stone, PhD,

Research Projects

The TREE Center’s transdisciplinary academic-community team science specifically highlights the social determinants of behavioral health – including adverse childhood experiences, historical trauma, and intersectional effects of poverty and discrimination – to improve conditions and outcomes related to youth suicide, alcohol and drug misuse, depression, and access to behavioral health services. The center’s two major projects, Youth Suicide Prevention and Immigrant Family Project, will run through 2022:

  • Integrating Intergenerational Cultural Knowledge Exchange with Zero Suicide is an innovative study in the San Felipe tribal nation that integrates into Indian Health Services primary care settings. TREE Center is focused on the root causes of behavioral health, especially considering New Mexico’s rates of youth suicide – the state’s suicide rate for youth ages 15 to 19 has increased by more than a third over the past decade. Cultural knowledge and language is like an immunization against risks around suicide. Contact PI, Deborah Altschul, Phd,
  • Addressing the Social-Structural Determinants of Mental Health through Adaptation of a Transdisciplinary Ecological Intervention Model for Mexican Immigrants is a transdisciplinary ecological approach to reducing mental health disparities among Mexican immigrants. This is accomplished by adapting and integrating a multilevel community-based advocacy, learning, and social support intervention into existing efforts at three community partner organizations that focus on mental health, education, and legal and civil rights issues of Mexican immigrants. Contact PI, Jessica Goodkind,

Pilot Projects

The IDC also supports a mini-pilot project program that awards grants to under-represented junior faculty and postdoctoral scholars to conduct mental and behavioral health disparities research. 

In year one, the following received mini-pilot project awards: Dr. Thomas Chávez ( and community partner, the NM Dream Team, to study mental health among Latino immigrant families; Dr. Jaelyn deMaria(, and community partner Generation Justice, to study media communication about mental health; and Dr. Shiv Desai ( and community partner the Albuquerque Public Schools, to study the use of ethnic studies to heal student trauma. All of these studies use a social determinants of health framework and include work to address organizational, systems, and societal factors influencing mental and behavioral health outcomes.