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Mental Health wins pilot project

Spokane one of 10 sites for schizophrenia program

Spokane Mental Health is one of 10 mental health centers nationwide chosen to participate in a pilot program designed to improve the lives of people with schizophrenia.

The eight-month program will strive to improve the daily functioning of 50 local people older than 18 who have schizophrenia or schizo-affective disorder, said David Panken, CEO of the private, nonprofit organization.

“Too many of the 2.4 million Americans with schizophrenia are left behind when it comes to their care, their inclusion in our communities, and their recovery,” Panken said. “It’s time to expect more.”

About 19 percent of Spokane Mental Health’s approximately 10,000 clients suffer from schizophrenia, which is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a “a group of severe brain disorders in which people interpret reality abnormally.”

Schizophrenia’s onset typically occurs in young adulthood. Symptoms can include delusions, hallucinations and thought disorder. The condition is chronic and requires lifelong treatment.

The pilot program, run by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, will help participants become more independent and able to accomplish daily activities. It also will track how they are doing.

“Over time, we will see measurable differences in terms of daily living skills,” Panken said.

The national council will provide Spokane Mental Health with the technical assistance to “make meaningful improvements in the lives of people with schizophrenia,” said council president and CEO Linda Rosenberg.

Also participating in the pilot program are mental health centers in Mobile, Ala.; Egg Harbor Township, N.J.; Smyrna, Ga.; St. Joseph, Mo.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Kerrville, Texas; Springfield, Ill.; Cleveland, Ohio; and Fern Park, Fla.

Sunovion Pharmaceutical Inc. has provided financial support, but Panken stressed that the program is not a drug trial.

“Participating in this national pilot program means Spokane Mental Health will help lead the nation in taking the standard of care to a whole new level,” Panken said.

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