When I received my February issue of Behavioral Healthcare I was immediately struck by the beauty of the cover depicting Hopewell, a therapeutic farming community in Northeast Ohio for adults with major mental illnesses. I read the article with much excitement and relief that finally a sense of compassion and humanity was returning to the behavioral healthcare system. It is a rare and beautiful thing to see. Dorothea Dix, the social worker who forced the United States in the 19th century to release the mentally ill from prisons and provide them therapeutic care, would be thrilled to know that what she engendered, and what has been lost for so long, is coming back to life.
As a therapist and behavioral healthcare professional for more than 20 years, I want to see this model replicated and become the standard, rather than the exception, for the care of the mentally ill. It is time for all of us who have devoted our lives to this field to come together and re-create what was systematically dismantled in the l980s: the humane care of the mentally ill through the transformative power of genuine caring in an aesthetically appealing therapeutic environment.
What is a rarity could become a movement, develop into a trend, and then become the standard of care. It begins at places like Hopewell and can spread across the country if we as healthcare professionals join together and make it happen.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “A society is ultimately judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members.” Hopewell and therapeutic communities just like it can proudly say, “We agree, and we are putting our values into action.”
JoAnn Richi, MC, LPC, General Manager
Action Consulting & Treatment, LLC
Thank you so much for the article “Planting recovery” in your February 2009 edition. As an architect who works with many mental health institutions founded under and dedicated to the principles of “moral treatment,” I read about this farm treatment program with particular interest. It has made me want to know more about these types of facilities, and I definitely will be contacting some for additional information and data on patient outcomes. I truly believe that this type of environment of care is too little valued in our overregulated and underfunded world of mental healthcare. Much like the Planetree movement has been a beacon of light for the general patient care environment, I think that the moral treatment movement has much to offer people with mental illness and those who provide care for them.
I would like to point out one factual error in this article. William Tuke did indeed found a “retreat asylum” in 1792, which had a profound influence on the course of mental health treatment. It was, however, in York, not Liverpool, England, and is still in existence, thriving and doing profoundly valuable work today. I had the pleasure of visiting it last year with members of the Ivy League consortium of mental health institutions on a fact-finding visit and had a chance to observe and talk with current residents and staff about their programs and the ideals of the moral treatment movement. This institution and those that owe their existence to its example are still providing care with the same mind-set that motivated William Tuke and his grandson Samuel, that “the respect for patients, the emphasis on human rights and the value placed on relationships are as relevant now as they were in 1813.”1 I am sure that the staff and residents at Hopewell would be in complete agreement.
New York City
- Jones K. Foreword. In: Tuke S. Description of the Retreat. 1813. Reprinted. London; Process Press:1996.