This year marks an important milestone for consumers and their advocates: the 10th anniversary of the Lilly Reintegration Awards. Established in 1996, the Lilly Reintegration Awards recognize outstanding achievements in the quest to improve the care and services available to those battling severe mental illnesses. “We have always known that medication is just the beginning,” explains the Chairman of the Awards Judging Panel, Ralph Aquila, M.D. “For reintegration to be successful, people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder need the support of people and programs in their communities.”
Without community programs, a newly diagnosed consumer would simply be given a prescription – nothing else, no resources, no helping hand, no human encouragement. The purpose of the Lilly Reintegration Awards is to salute the programs, services and individuals who have devoted their lives to being a beacon of light to those in need of a mentor, an advocate, a teacher, a friend.
While in the early years the Reintegration Awards primarily recognized the work of doctors and nurses, the depth and breadth of our nation’s mental health system has evolved, and today the Awards are also given to housing and education programs, as well as to employment services that assist the severely mentally ill.
In fact, today, one member of the Judging Panel was actually one of the very first Lilly Reintegration Award recipients, Susan Stachofsky, R.N.,C. Susan and her colleague, Jan Wheatley, were becoming increasingly concerned that state mental hospitals were not effectively following up with patients. They observed that upon hospital release, patients were simply handed their medicine, wished good luck and sent back to life, which was all too often on the streets. She and Wheatley decided to do something about it. They mortgaged their own homes to establish the first housing facility for the mentally ill in the Spokane, Washington area. Today they are the directors of Rowan-Court/Raymond Place, where they provide housing for more than 200 people.
Cero’s is another impressive past recipient of the Lilly Reintegration Award. Honored in 2002, Cero’s Inc. is the rehabilitation program of the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas. For persons who have a severe and persistent mental illness, the program provides training and employment in manufacturing and marketing fine chocolate candies. Consumers work alongside non-disabled employees in candy production, packaging and retail sales. Cero’s provides a sense of pride and achievement for consumers who acquire specialized skills and offers both seasonal and permanent positions. (And as those who attended the Awards dinner in 2002 can attest – the candy is scrumptious!!!)
Over the years, the scope of Award recipients has grown to be quite wide; in fact, this past November an Honorary Reintegration Award was given to former NFL running back Calvin Hill, who was the driving force in prompting the National Football League (NFL) to recognize the mental health needs of its members. Hill assisted the Dallas Cowboys in establishing in-house mental health services for players with conditions such as bipolar disorder – one of the first programs of its kind in the NFL.
With such impressive recipients during the first decade of the Awards, the mental health field looks to the 10-year anniversary with great anticipation of future programs to be uncovered through the initiative.
To that end, in 2006 the Judging Panel plans to specifically focus on those who have made strong inroads in changing the tenor of our nation’s mental healthcare system through public policy – providing monies to community programs, fostering recognition of mental health issues and tearing down the walls of stigma. In the months ahead you will read more about the 2006 Lilly Reintegration Awards as these exciting plans unfold.