On a beautiful Sunday afternoon at my home in Monterey, MA, I enjoyed hosting Jeffrey Geller, MD, MPH and Carrie Sacco, RN and learning about their new endeavors to improve mental health care in Massachusetts.
Dr. Geller and Virgil, both making excellent points!
Jeffrey, who is the medical director of the Worcester Recovery Center and professor of psychiatry at UMass Medical School, is excited about his new efforts to add five hours of professional programming every day to assist patients in their recovery. He acknowledges that he and his staff are challenged with some of the most complex mentally ill individuals in the state. He speaks highly of his staff, who are on the front lines every day. He also speaks warmly of the patients who are striving hard to recover their mental health.
Carrie spoke of her work of improving the nutrition that is available to and practiced by patients in the state funded mental health systems. She's in the process of determining what the next steps will be following the initial success of her program. She and Jeffrey have completed a year of articles for the Berkshire Eagle newspaper, helping to guide readers on how to cope with mental illness personally and in society.
A few of their excellent articles are linked below:
Together, we discussed the important role that residential settings can fill for those who need more intensive support in their recovery process than is generally available in less structured, community-based settings. We lamented that the asylum movement, launched over 150 years ago, was designed and initially practiced as a successful phase in the recovery process, but lost its way. To learn more, read The Lost Virtues of of The Asylum, an article written by the late Dr. Oliver Sacks.
We are thankful that places like the Worcester Recovery Center, CooperRiis Healing Community, Gould Farm, Spring Lake Ranch, Hopewell, and Rose Hill Center exist. We began to envision how a museum that would value the history of healing, therapeutic communities could help frame the positive role that therapeutic communities have played and could play in the future of improving mental health care.
We explored a vision that is emerging from Carrie about how a traveling exhibit might be supported by the Smithsonian and be focused on the emerging and collaborative mental health care solutions. We all thought that such an exhibit could indeed help to build an awareness of how positive outcomes can be achieved while also diminishing the stigma that still exists in society.
We parted after a lively discussion with each of us having a bit more hope for individuals seeking to recover from mental illness.