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Supporting basic needs worldwide

December 17, 2008
by David Raths
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A Google search before a trip to Africa led Richard Dougherty, PhD, to become deeply involved in an international mental health effort. In fact, Dr. Dougherty and his wife Charlotte have just launched the nonprofit BasicNeeds US.

Dr. Dougherty, president of the consulting firm DMA Health Strategies, was planning a trip to Uganda last December when he came across the Web site of BasicNeeds. The United Kingdom-based organization integrates health, social, and economic services for people with mental health disorders in the world’s poorest regions. While on his trip to visit his daughter (in Uganda for a school study program), he visited a few of BasicNeeds’ sites outside Kampala to better understand its model, which ties mental health services to economic development efforts.

“It becomes increasingly clear that you can’t treat mental illness without addressing the underlying social needs, which is what BasicNeeds seeks to do,” Dr. Dougherty explains, noting, “They have what we in the U.S. would call a ‘recovery’ approach, but what they would call helping people out of poverty.”


“BasicNeeds has tested this model and has had a great impact. They are ready to replicate these programs in more countries.”
—Richard Dougherty, PhD

Dr. Dougherty was so impressed that he offered to help BasicNeeds set up a U.S. organization to raise funds. “They had been thinking about a U.S. presence for a while to get the support of larger international charities based here,” he notes, adding, “It doesn’t take that much to make a big difference.”

In addition to Uganda, BasicNeeds has operations in Ghana, India, Kenya, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania, and is starting a program in Colombia. Program developers in each country provide technical assistance to partner organizations that deliver such services as mental health counseling at HIV/AIDS clinics. Dr. Dougherty will assess where technical assistance is needed and work with the U.S. behavioral health community to help.

Dr. Dougherty points out that no other organization is making a commitment to community mental healthcare internationally as its primary mission. “Some do it as part of a broader mission, but project by project rather than systematically,” he explains. “BasicNeeds has tested this model and has had a great impact. They are ready to replicate these programs in more countries.”

David Raths is a freelance writer. Dr. Dougherty is a member of Behavioral Healthcare’s Editorial Board.

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