Response to Jane E. Brody’s piece “When Mental Illness Is Severe”

Posted on November 20, 2019
When Mental Illness Is SevereJane E. Brody’s piece “When Mental Illness Is Severe” (Nov. 19, 2019, Page 5 | Print Headline: Stepping In When Mental Illness Is Severe) draws attention to the importance of medication and psychiatric intervention in helping those in crisis from serious mental illness. While I agree much progress is needed in the way we handle such emergencies, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture. The only way to ensure the long-term recovery of individuals with serious mental illness – and to reduce the costs associated with their care – is by helping them overcome the profound isolation they endure. From my years as a primary care physician and public health leader, I can attest that the best way to prevent people from becoming patients in the first place is by teaching them the skills to manage their own symptoms. At Fountain House, for example, members are re-hospitalized far less often than the general population – and at a 21% cost reduction to Medicaid. To “avert further disaster”, we need to think less about crisis management and acute responses, and more about durable approaches to fostering resilience, dignity, and community.
Ashwin Vasan, MD, PhD
President and CEO, Fountain House

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