Background: Minority populations have been under-represented in mental health research studies. The systematic treatment enhancement program for bipolar disorder developed the Community Partners Program (CPP) to address this issue in a large, prospective treatment study of persons with bipolar disorder. Purpose: The primary goal of CPP was to develop a community-based infrastructure for studying bipolar disorder that would enhance the ethnic/racial and socioeconomic diversity of participants. Methods: Selected academic sites partnered with local clinics (n = 6 partnerships in five cities). This report describes the conceptualization, implementation, and qualitative evaluation of CPP, as well as quantitative analysis of clinical and sociodemographic differences between the samples recruited at academic versus community sites. Results: Quantitative analysis of the 155 participants from the six partnerships revealed enrollment of 45% from minority populations (vs. 15% in academic sites). Significant sociodemographic differences were evident not only between academic and community sites, but within minority and non-minority groups across site types. Notably, clinical differences were not evident between participants from academic and community sites. Review of qualitative data suggests that certain factors around implementation of research protocols may enhance community participation. Conclusions: Moving research recruitment and participation into community sites was more successful in increasing minority enrollment than efforts to attract such individuals to academic sites. Recommendations for creating and maintaining academic/community partnerships are given. Limitations: Several important variables were not considered including mood severity, hospitalization, or treatment differences. Minority participants were grouped by combining African American and Hispanics, which may have obscured subgroup differences. A derivation of standard qualitative methods was used in this study.
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