Recently, we sat down with Jackie Benavente, a member of the CBAM clinical staff and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Ms. Benavente works at the UCLA Vine Street Clinic, where she collaborates with other clinical and research staff to ensure that our study participants receive a high level of care.
Tell us a little bit about what you do at CBAM.
I do a wide variety of things, including working on or NIDA and HPTN funded studies, as well as overall crisis intervention, and referrals to community organizations.
On the medication studies, I complete a psychological assessment or the SCID (Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders), to assess for mental health disorders and addiction. I also administer cognitive testing to assess for cognitive impairments and improvements during clean time. As a member of the research team I assist with day to day operations which include; completing measures, collecting data, consulting with study physician, and providing overall support to staff with managing participant’s needs. On our HPTN/Prep study, I work in the capacity of the C4 supervisor. C4 is a new risk reduction strategy created by the principal investigators of the HPTN069 Prep study. I train all new staff on this model, and supervise our risk reduction C4 counselors. I conduct weekly C4 meetings, consult on cases, and provide overall support to the HPTN staff.
What is cognitive testing?
We work collaboratively with Dr.Charles Hinkin and Dr. April Thames who are from the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral sciences. They are both Principal Investigators to the Ibudilast study. They along with Dr.Steven Shoptaw and Dr.Heinzerling decided what tests to administer to assess for cognitive impairments, as well as improvements during clean time. Methamphetamine affects the cognitive part of the brain including visuospatial perception, attention, and inhibition, working memory, long term memory, and learning. The cognitive tests that I administer are both paper and computer tests. Administration takes about two hours and fifteen minutes. The tests are administered during the screening of the study (when the participant is using), during week 4 (when the participant quite possibly has clean time), and at end of the study, week 13. From my understanding at the conclusion of the study, the data will be looked at as a whole, to asses for improvements in those participants on Ibudilast; this will be compared to the scores of those on placebo.
Have there been any big success stories for participants?
I think any change is a success. A lot of people look at our studies as an alternative for outpatient or inpatient treatment. Maybe they’ve tried everything, and can’t seem to find what works for them. While for others we are the first level of contact for getting help. Participants qualify on the basis of medical and psychological assessments, so for those that don’t qualify, they never leave without receiving a referral and some support by our staff. We’ve had success stories from people even on placebo! Which kinda tells you that having the structure of coming in a few times a week, being accountable by having to provide urine which tests for meth (at each visit), and the counseling support and gift cards; really does help. And for the HPTN studies, I would say that I’ve seen a lot of participant’s reach their risk reduction goals and become more educated on HIV and STI transmission.
For information on current research studies being conducted at the UCLA Vine Street Clinic, visit our website at http://www.uclacbam.org/about-us/ucla-vine-street-clinic/ or call 866-449-UCLA. Jackie and the rest of our dedicated staff are there to help.