Grant Funding for Behavioral Health: An Interview with Karen Celedonia

An often under appreciated area of Behavioral Health is the grant writing process. Many of the agencies we work with are not-for-profit and always looking for help maintaining their existing grants as well as obtaining funding from new sources. We met Karen Celedonia through our colleague Theresa Wray. Working on projects together to support mental health agencies, we knew we needed to interview Karen and introduce her work to our providers. Please enjoy her wisdom and how her firm can help your Behavioral Health organization on Mental Health News Radio.


  1. What prompted you to start your own business specializing in research services?

I wanted potential clients to have the option of working with an independent, smaller organization and receive the perks that often accompany doing business with a smaller entity: a quality product completed in a timely fashion; personalized services; and a good working relationship between client and consultant.

  1. What types of research services do you offer?

I offer a broad range of services, everything from evaluation design (process and outcomes) to various writing services, like manuscript and grant writing. I also offer qualitative research data collection, analysis, and reporting services, as well as quantitative data collection process development.

  1. Doesn’t research take place in a lab? What experience do you have in the field?

Most of the research projects I’ve been involved with have incorporated a community-based participatory approach into their designs. Using this approach, community stakeholders are active participants in the research project, and the research is taking place in the field, where most treatment is accessed, rather than in a lab. It’s been fun to work directly with administrators and clinicians at community mental health clinics towards the successful training and implementation of evidence-based treatments at the clinics.

  1. How do you apply a participatory approach to your work with your clients?

One of my current clients is a community mental health agency, and I’m working with them to design an outcomes evaluation for their in-home and psychotherapy services. The process has been very participatory, much in the flavor of participatory evaluation, in that it’s not me, this outsider, coming in and telling the agency what to do. The service managers, business analyst, and I collaborate to come up with solutions together, and everyone has an equal say in the decisions that are made.

  1. What have you learned about mental health service delivery through your work in the community?

Clinician turnover is a huge problem. High turnover rates are detrimental to continuity of care and if an organization is engaged in an evidence-based treatment implementation initiative, impedes the implementation process.

  1. What has been your most rewarding experience in the field?

I was working on a project that was studying a web-based approach towards training and implementing an evidence-based psychosocial treatment for Bipolar Disorder in community mental health clinics across Pennsylvania. As part of my work on the project, I was in charge of coordinating the training and consultation for clinicians, and I would routinely sit in on consultations with the clinicians. It was very gratifying to hear the clinicians describe the progress clients made as they moved through the treatment model.

  1. Who can benefit from the services that you offer?Luculentus Research Services

Given my unique blend of academic and applied research experience, academics and community-based mental health professionals alike are poised to benefit from the broad range of services that I offer. Past and present clients include local universities, healthcare providers, community mental health agencies, and a digital health firm.

  1. How is writing–particularly grant writing–relevant to non-research-oriented mental health professionals and organizations?

Funding is tight these days, for academicians and community mental health care providers alike. That means grants are competitive, so your application needs to stand out. Being able to write a strong, compelling grant is essential to the life and longevity of organizations.

  1. What tips do you have for someone who is new to grant writing?

When writing, keep your audience and the review criteria in the forefront of your mind. Doing so will help you stay focused and write in a clear, concise manner. You want to make sure you include all pertinent information for the grant reviewers while steering clear of “filler” or “fluff.”

  1. What projects do you have on the horizon?

I have a lot of writing projects in the works. I’m going to be doing some manuscript writing with a colleague in Finland based on findings from analyses of a birth cohort, and I have a new client at the University of Pittsburgh doing manuscript writing for them as well. I’m also working on a side venture with another consulting company that I’ve partnered with in the last couple of months; we’re working on developing a theory-informed, evidence-based program for preventing workforce turnover at community mental health agencies.

Karen L. Celedonia is a research consultant with over ten years of experience in academic and applied psychiatric research. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and English from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and she received her Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh. She currently owns her own consulting business, Luculentus Research Services, which offers a broad range of research and evaluation services for academic and community-based mental health professionals and organizations. ┬áBefore starting Luculentus Research Services, Karen worked for a managed care behavioral health organization; a large health network provider in Western Pennsylvania (UPMC); the University of Pittsburgh; and the RAND Corporation. She primarily worked on research projects investigating the implementation of evidence-based treatments in community mental health clinics, and many of the projects used a community-based participatory approach in their design. In addition to her work in the community, she has authored and co-authored numerous articles published in scholarly peer-reviewed journals. She has also received training in Motivational Interviewing, DBT, IPT, and IPSRT.

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