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Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., MSW


Ph.D., Social Work
University of Kentucky

MSW, Social Work
University of Michigan


Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., LMSW, is a mental health services researcher and policy expert. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Dell Medical School and a research assistant professor in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health.

Cohen completed her doctorate in social work in 2015 at the University of Kentucky and masters in social work in 2008 at the University of Michigan. Prior to her work at The University of Texas at Austin, she served as a community mental health administrator and clinician for over 10 years.

Cohen’s research focuses on understanding and reforming community mental health system policies, programs and practices. Cohen has successfully partnered with multiple providers and state systems to examine system, program and practice barriers to effective care delivery — and to apply innovation, including new technologies, to improve access, engagement and outcomes for youth with emerging serious mental illnesses. Her work centers on the transition to adulthood and reforming disability policy to ensure that older youth and young adult mental health needs are met.

Cohen’s current projects build on her successful collaborations with community mental health centers and state-level policy makers. Her projects guide the development, evaluation and refinement of new interventions and evidence-informed treatment models to improve the experiences and outcomes of young people who transition from child to adult mental health services, and to provide proactive services for early serious mental illness. She has completed training in relational database development and has a specific talent for leveraging administrative data for research efforts.

Cohen serves as the evaluator on the SAMHSA Clinical High Risk for Psychosis grant within Austin and she is a Co-I for the Texas Early Psychosis Intervention Network (EPINET-TX), which aims to develop models of effective delivery of coordinated specialty care services for early psychosis across public mental health in the State of Texas. She is also piloting a transdiagnostic model focused on improving treatment engagement for all young adults in public mental health services.

Through her work at the Center for Youth Mental Health and the Austin State Hospital Redesign, Cohen is partnering with community stakeholders to create a research-informed continuum of mental health care for young people to easily access prior to crisis. This continuum of care will serve as a national model for intervening early and preventing disability.