Celebrating Ten Years of the Lilly Reintegration Awards - Where Are They Now?
Susan Stachofsky & Janet Wheatley - Raymond Court/Rowan Place, Spokane, Washington
1997 Lilly Reintegration Award Winner, Nursing
When Susan Stachofsky became a nurse with the state psychiatric hospital in Spokane, WA in the 1980’s, the idea that people with mental illness could recover and go on to live meaningful lives did not exist. As a young nurse, she was taught that the best the medical community could hope to do was to stabilize each patient, but there was no talk of long-term recovery or reintegration. Over time, however, she became increasingly frustrated at the revolving door that was the mental health care system. Consumers would be discharged from the hospital with little or no support, often times to the most inhumane living conditions where they would become easy prey for unscrupulous individuals, only to be readmitted to hospital once more – and this cycle repeated itself over and over.
Susan and her business partner, Janet Wheatley, decided that they had to do something about the situation and find a way to support their mentally ill patients not only while they were in hospital, but also after they were released. The nurses wrote to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and received a grant for $860,000. After both took out second mortgages on their homes to help finance the project, they opened the first residence, Raymond Court, on April 11th, 1996, as a supported housing facility for individuals with serious mental illness. That first facility, located in downtown Spokane, had 14 private units. Within two days of opening, all the units were taken.
The program was successful. The nurses were able to keep patients from having to return to hospital repeatedly, but the need for supported housing was great, so in early 1998, the nurses opened yet another facility, Rowan Place, this time with 30 units. In 2003, they added 3 residential homes to the mix – housing 18 additional people. Today, Susan and Jan’s supported housing program has grown to 68 units in total. “The process of reintegration that was all but unheard of 22 years ago when I started nursing is now a reality,” said Susan Stachofsky. “We realized that all our patients needed was that extra support and rehabilitation until they could live independently.”
Indeed, those patients who ‘graduate’ from the program are never truly left on their own. The nurses have also developed an outpatient program so that even after they leave, those individuals would always have a place where they could receive support and counsel.
Susan noted that mental health care in the United States has come a long way since her early days at the state psychiatric facility – and she has had a unique vantage point from which to make this determination. After winning the Lilly Reintegration Award for nursing in 1997 and again in 1998 – something she considered “a tremendous honor,” she went on to become a member of the Lilly Reintegration Awards judging panel. “I am always both touched and encouraged by the caliber of programs that enter these awards each year,” she stated. “And with the strides that have been made with medications in the past few years, I feel even more hopeful, because today the mental health community is making reintegration and recovery, not just a goal but also a reality for so many people.”