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Lilly Reintegration Awards battle stigma for 14th year

October 26, 2010
by Lindsay Barba, Associate Editor
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Awards honor providers, peers innovating recovery-focused services

Now in its 14th year, the Lilly Reintegration Awards honored 10 organizations in five categories for their outstanding commitment to providing recovery-focused services to persons affected by serious mental illness (SMI). Along with the 10 provider awardees, Lilly also honored two consumers affected by bipolar disorder or schizophrenia who are active in their recovery communities. Each provider award category has a first and second place winner, who is awarded a $5,000 or $2,500 grant.

“We are looking for those individuals or programs that go above and beyond traditional mental health services,” says Ralph Aquila, MD, chairperson of the awards’ independent judging panel. “We’ve always been of the notion that if people get the appropriate interventions and wraparound services, they can really succeed and have a really productive life, and that was the whole driving force behind this initiative.”

Aquila, who is director of residential community services at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in NYC, has served as the judging panel’s chairperson since 1996 and was one of the founders of the awards program. Along with celebrating “those people working in the trenches who don’t get a lot of recognition,” he says that the awards were also designed to decrease stigma associated with serious mental illnesses, which the public often views as “dead-end” diseases.

“The spirit behind these awards has really been to give an example to the country that if we bring the right resources to the table, individuals struggling with SMI can really get better and have a productive life,” he says. “That’s still one of the biggest stigmas we’re fighting.”

Organization’s strengths-based services stand out
Programs that look for the best in people and build on those strengths are those that catch the judging panel’s eye, Aquila notes. In the awards’ Social Support category, The Recovery Mall’s strengths-based approach led that organization to the first place award.

Located on site at Eastern State Hospital in Lexington, Ky., The Recovery Mall’s services are “unique for public psychiatric hospitals like ours,” says David Susman, PhD, director and psychology services coordinator at The Recovery Mall. “We have a lot more consumer participation and leadership, more peer support activities, and a lot more focus on individual strengths.”

In partnership with the local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter, The Recovery Mall provides over 2,000 inpatient consumers every year with over 60 programming options, such as medication and symptom management, co-occurring drug and alcohol treatment, relapse prevention, and health management.

Along with these traditional programs, The Recovery Mall also offers consumers opportunities to build their social and personal skills with programs focused on pre-vocational training, stress management, and education. Consumers can also take a step away from more intensive programming by selecting from a curriculum of leisure-based activities offered in the mall’s gym, library, or computer lab. By selecting among the many program options, consumers build an individualized daily schedule of five activities per day. Consumers will have at least one leisure-based activity in their schedules every day, along with supplemental programming in the evenings and on weekends.

“We’re dealing with some of the different areas of concern, and we try to meet each person at their level and develop an individual plan that can be something they’re capable of carrying out,” Susman says. “It has really given people many more options than the traditional unit-based approach to programming, which is what we had previously.”

With the $5,000 Lilly Reintegration Award grant, Susman intends to further expand the scope of the The Recovery Mall’s offerings. One potential opportunity is to increase access to peer support specialists who can continue to assist consumers and their families once they have reintegrated into their communities. Another option is to build a Web-based education and support resource for consumers.

“These awards have been seen as one of the icons of recognition throughout behavioral healthcare,” Susman says. “We were very honored to be selected.”

Other recipients of the 2010 Lilly Reintegration Award include both treatment teams and consumers. They are:

Treatment team awards:

1. Advocacy
1st place - Eleventh Judicial Criminal Mental Health Project; Miami, Florida
2nd place - Morningside-Westside Community Action Corporation; New York, New York

2. Clinical Medicine
1st place - Aurora Center for Life Skills; Aurora, Colorado
2nd place - Dual Recovery Program; Toledo, Ohio

3. Employment
1st place - The COVA Prisoner Re-entry Initiative; Columbus, Ohio
2nd place - Scripps Mercy Hospital’s A-Visions Program; San Diego, California

4. Housing
1st place - BRC Reception Center; New York, New York
2nd place - SMHA Network Housing Office; Norwich, Connecticut

5. Social Support
1st place - The Recovery Mall; Lexington, Kentucky
2nd place - CooperRiis Healing Community; Mill Spring, North Carolina

Consumer awards:

1. Achievement
1st place - Drew Horn; Freehold, New Jersey

2. Artistic Contribution
1st place - Digital Storytelling Workshop Group; Toledo, Ohio

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