Skip to main content

Kathleen C Thomas Lab

Welcome to our website! We conduct research in behavioral economics to improve access to care, quality of care and outcomes for adults and children with mental health conditions. Our work is stakeholder engaged and uses a variety of data sources: primary and secondary data, electronic health records, claims, and other public records with input from stakeholders using interviews, focus groups and discrete choice experiments. Explore our projects and publications below. Please feel free to contact us for further information.

Current Research Projects (Total direct cost):

  • Holmes GM, Principal Investigator, Thomas KC, Associate Director. UNC-CH Training Program in Health Services Research, Agency for Health Research Quality, Current Duration: 07/01/18-06/30/23, Amount: $524,228
  • Thomas KC, Principal Investigator. Stakeholder advisory committee, National Institutes of Health Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program at UNC Chapel Hill (NCTraCS) Duration: 2/1/20-1/31/21, Amount: $2,000
  • Thomas KC, Principal Investigator. Communication access in healthcare settings for deaf ASL-speaking North Carolinians, North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NCDSDHH), Duration: 12/1/17-11/30/20, Amount: $20,000
  • Kennedy J, Principal Investigator, Thomas KC, Co-Investigator. Collaborative on Health Reform and Independent Living (CHRIL), National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, Duration: 10/01/15-09/30/20, Amount $438,089
  • Sleath BL, Principal Investigator, Thomas KC, Co-Investigator. Your Opinion Matters: How to Make the Most Out of Talking to Health Care Providers, The Duke Endowment, Duration: 6/1/19-6/30/20, Amount: $467,000
  • Daniels J, Principal Investigator, Thomas KC, Co-Investigator. NC CADDRE: Study to Explore Early Development Phase 3 (SEED 3), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Duration: 07/01/16-06/30/20, Amount: $764,712
  • Ellis AR, Principal Investigator, Thomas KC, Co-Investigator. Improving study design and reporting for stated choice experiments, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Duration: 05/16/17-02/29/20, Amount: $92,918
  • Jordan R, Principal Investigator, Thomas KC, Co-Investigator. Examining the Feasibility of Initiating Addiction Treatment in a North Carolina Emergency Department, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Duration: 02/01/18-06/30/19, Amount: $124,927
  • Thomas KC, Principal Investigator. Padres efectivos y terapistas entregados: Increasing activation and engagement in Latino parent-provider interactions, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Duration: 9/30/2016- 03/31/2019, Amount: $199,073
  • Smith DL, Principal Investigator, Thomas KC, Co-Investigator. Tools for Engagement – Building capacity for PCOR within community behavioral health organizations serving Latinos. Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), Duration: 01/01/16-12/31/17, Amount $241,824
  • Thomas KC, Principal Investigator. State benchmarking, healthcare outcomes, and implications for people with disabilities, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Duration: 12/01/16-11/30/17, Amount: $59,511
  • Glickman S, Principal Investigator, Thomas KC, Co-Investigator. Novel Use of Mobile Integrated Emergency Medical Services to Improve Outcomes of Mental Health Emergencies, National Institute of Mental Health, Duration: 09/01/15-11/30/17, Amount: $327,050
  • Thomas KC, Principal Investigator. Padres efectivos (parent activation): Skills Latina mothers use to get healthcare for their children, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), Duration: 08/01/13-07/31/17, Amount: $1,155,657
  • Hooper S, Principal Investigator, Thomas KC, Co-Investigator. State Implementation Grants for Improving Services for Children and Youth with ASD, Maternal & Child Health Bureau/HRSA, Duration: 09/13 – 08/16, Amount $220,588
  • Thomas KC, Principal Investigator. Tough choices: Autism, private health insurance and family out-of-pocket spending, Maternal & Child Health Bureau/HRSA, Duration: 09/14-08/15, Amount $65,789

Recent Publications

Henderson SC, Owino H, Thomas KC, Cyr JM, Glickman SW, Dusetzina S. Post-Discharge Health Services Use for Patients with Serious Mental Illness Treated at an Emergency Department versus a Dedicated Community Mental Health Center. Administration and Policy in Mental Health. 2019 Dec 7. PubMed PMID: 31813067.


Hale KL, Wallace DD, Blanco-Durán D, Annis IE, Guzman LE, García SJ, Pérez Jolles M, Sleath BL, Elwyn G, Stein GL, Thomas KC. 2020.  Conversations between Latina mothers and their child’s mental health provider: An observational study of shared decision-making regarding pediatric patient mental health needs. Patient Educ Couns. 2020 Jan;103(1):96-102. PubMed PMID: 31447200.


Pérez Jolles M, Richmond J, Thomas KC. Minority patient preferences, barriers, and facilitators for shared decision-making with health care providers in the USA: A systematic review. Patient Education and Counseling. 2019 Jul;102(7):1251-1262. PubMed PMID: 30777613.


Pérez Jolles M, Thomas KC. Disparities in Self-reported Access to Patient-centered Medical Home Care for Children with Special Health Care Needs. Med Care. 2018 Oct;56(10):840-846. PubMed PMID: 30211808.


Hall JP, Shartzer A, Kurth NK, Thomas KC. Medicaid Expansion as an Employment Incentive Program for People With Disabilities. Am J Public Health. 2018 Sep;108(9):1235-1237. PubMed PMID: 30024794.


Martinez M, Thomas KC,* Williams CS, Christian R, Crais E, Pretzel Rmar, Hooper SR. Family Experiences with the Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder: System Barriers and Facilitators of Efficient Diagnosis. J Autism Dev Disord. 2018 Jul;48(7):2368-2378. PubMed PMID: 29453706.


Thomas KC, Owino H, Ansari S, Adams L, Cyr JM, Gaynes BN, Glickman SW. Patient-Centered Values and Experiences with Emergency Department and Mental Health Crisis Care. Adm Policy Ment Health. 2018 Jul;45(4):611-622. PubMed PMID: 29383464.


Thomas KC, Shartzer A, Kurth NK, Hall JP. Impact of ACA Health Reforms for People with Mental Health Conditions. Psychiatr Serv. 2018 Feb 1;69(2):231-234. PubMed PMID: 29137555.


Stein GL, Kulish A, Williams C, Mejia Y, Prandoni J, Thomas KC. Latina/o parental activation: The role of demographic and psychological factors. Journal of Latina/o Psychology 2017 Nov 5(4):290-305.


Thomas KC, Stein GL, Williams CS, Jolles MP, Sleath BL, Martinez M, García SJ, Guzman LE, Williams CE, Morrissey JP. Fostering Activation Among Latino Parents of Children with Mental Health Needs: An RCT. Psychiatr Serv. 2017 Oct 1;68(10):1068-1075. PubMed PMID:28566024.


Pérez Jolles M, Martinez M, Garcia SJ, Stein GL; Mentor Parent Group Members, Thomas KC. Involving Latina/o parents in patient-centered outcomes research: Contributions to research study design, implementation and outcomes. Health Expect. 2017 Oct;20(5):992-1000. doi: 10.1111/hex.12540. Epub 2017 Feb 8. PubMed PMID: 28177564; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5600244.


Sleath B, Carpenter DM, Sayner R, Thomas K, Mann L, Sage A, Sulzer SH, Sandler AD. Youth Views on Communication About ADHD and Medication Adherence. Community Ment Health J. 2017 May;53(4):438-444. PubMed PMID: 28074407.

Thomas KC. Using Health Data to Understand and Improve Children’s Mental Health Service Use, invited presentation, Oregon State University, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, February 21, 2020.


Scott Davis, PhD. Research Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy.

I am interested in improving patients’ ability to use their medications appropriately to achieve better outcomes. Much of this work involves determining the best ways to implement and disseminate evidence-based practices, especially patient education and screening interventions, across large health systems.

Diana M. Cejas, MD, MPH. Assistant Professor, Child Neurology.

Clinical Interests: Autism spectrum disorders, pediatric behavioral neurology, neurodevelopmental conditions, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and transition of care for adolescents with neurological conditions. Research Interests: Patient and medical trainee education, particularly as related to transition of care; improving health outcomes; and cultural competence.

Izabela Annis, MS. Senior Data Analyst, Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy.

I am involved in studies that: (1) investigate comparative treatment effects on patient centered outcomes, (2) aim to develop new and improve existing machine learning methods that predict infrequent health outcomes and individual treatment effects, (2) assess the effectiveness of targeted interventions in vulnerable and unserved populations.  I work with large administrative databases:  Medicare claims, electronic health records sourced from UNC Health Care system, Medicaid claims, as well as many other cross-disciplinary research resource files such as GIS files, US Census files, drug databases, and data from national (MEPS, NHANES, etc.) and local surveys.  I also participate in training PhD students and departmental fellows, helping them with statistical and programming problems.  I enjoy working with data, solving complex programming problems and applying a variety of statistical methods to answer research questions.


Benjamin Wu, Pharm D. Health Economics and Outcomes Research Fellow at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and GlaxoSmithKline

Ranita Anderson, MA, CCC-SLP. Doctoral student, Speech and Hearing Sciences, Department of Allied Health Sciences, UNC School of Medicine. Awards and Honors: Leadership Education Excellence in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (2009-2010), Autism Track (2010-2011); Minority Student Leadership Program (2009). Research Interests: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and early diagnosis, Children with Limited verbal skills and integration of augmentative and alternative communication, Parent, sibling and peer engagement in interventions for children with ASD.

Phillip Hughes, MS. Doctoral student, Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy. Phillip’s research interests include the psychosocial development of at-risk populations, disparities in healthcare access and outcomes, evidence-based policy, and statistical analysis.