Written by Ken Zimmerman, CEO, Fountain House
In my career as a civil rights attorney, federal and state official, philanthropic leader, and nonprofit executive, Throughline has always been fair, with a strong focus on housing and homelessness, and criminal justice reform. I got
Looking back, what’s striking is that even though mental health was so closely aligned with the work I was doing, it wasn’t the focus. That changed when Jared developed a serious mental illness that led to his death over six years ago.
Jared was a great kid. He was a bright, personable, deeply loving son and brother.
During his four-year hellish journey before his death, through hospitalizations, a run-in to the Kafka-esque criminal-law system, and a surprisingly brave admission to college, the many AP courses he took before becoming It is only possible because of Illness — what stood out most was how little he and we could understand how to move forward and how to do it in a way that included community, promise and, most of all, hope. supported him and us, and I say this. .
When I left my post of running national programs at the Open Society Foundation, it took me a year to travel the country and wonder why the country’s mental health efforts seemed so broken. I have come to understand why and what I can do about it. A salient lesson was that for all challenges, there is a lot of promise in approaches and initiatives that are not widely recognized or are just emerging. And it became clear that with the same kind of sustained attention that has been deployed in other fields, catalytic change is possible.It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
Let’s talk about the second one. This is the story of a man named Country. He is one of the lucky people I meet every day since joining Fountain House, a 75-year-old mental health nonprofit, as its new CEO. Until about a year ago, the country was out of jail and living with a drug use problem. He was the first guest at our recharge station — Outreach his kiosk in the heart of Times Square. Here, staff and peers connect and offer respite to those living with homelessness, serious mental health conditions, substance use problems, or all of the above.
As Country has come to know, the Fountain House and the model it spawned in clubhouses across the country, the so-called “social practice”, begins with something that at the most basic level is common sense. So community is an important form of therapy. And that’s what Fountain House has to offer, to people in countries and elsewhere whose lives have been disrupted by serious mental illness. This community begins with personal dignity, rebuilds agency and trust, and leads to recovery as well as prosperity for her 2,000+ new members. York city.
This is a fundamentally different starting point than most other mental health approaches, such as medication or timed programmatic interventions. These are important pieces of the puzzle, but they’re not enough. Instead, the Fountain House model addresses the devastating negative symptoms of serious mental illness that foster loneliness, increase stigma, and hinder the success of other interventions. Social conventions help create “stickiness.” This enables members to experience the ups and downs associated with mental illness in their communities and, in doing so, remain engaged in school, work and housing while away from the justice system and hospitals.
The evidence is strong. A Fountain House member is twice as likely to be employed, educated, and in a stable place of residence as another member living with a serious mental illness. It’s also cost-effective, as reflected in her independent NYU study. The Fountain House member believes he has a 21% reduction in Medicaid costs compared to other members, largely due to the overall benefits of this model. And, of course, the most compelling evidence is in the experiences of people like Country. That’s why the model created by Fountain House has been replicated in 200 clubhouses nationwide.
The country is now housed and employed. More importantly, he is in a respected community. Research indicates that his likely trajectory is one of continuing stable housing and employment while receiving psychiatric services and health care. This allows other public and private systems that the state may engage in to be more effective in what they do, improving outcomes and making better use of resources. In other words, it is a specific symptom that addresses the social determinants of mental health.
Fountain House is an innovative new approach with huge potential for how not only our 60,000 Clubhouse members across the United States, but also those with serious mental health conditions can recover and thrive. represents. And I want to be absolutely clear that this should be our north star — recovery and prosperity, not the low expectations bias that leads to homelessness, incarceration and hospitalization. can and should be a fundamental component of our country’s approach to mental health challenges.
If the largest facilities that house people with serious mental illness are the prisons of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, something is fundamentally wrong. Where 63% of healthcare spending comes from 20% of communities with behavioral health problems. And where communities of color and rural communities are particularly hard hit by these system failures.
Something is fundamentally right when we return to common sense and reaffirm dignity, community and empowerment as a starting point. It is an approach that fosters mental health transformation and fosters the catalytic change that is so desperately needed.
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This is a content marketing post by a Forbes EQ participant. The opinions of Forbes brand contributors are their own.