FEBRUARY 2024 – As I look forward to the 2024 Sozosei Summit to Decriminalize Mental Illness from April 16-17, 2024, and our March 1, 2024, Virtual Convening on 988, I am reminded that convenings can be a philanthropic superpower. Ideally, they foster collaboration, provide a landscape to share insights, and kick-start or advance common goals. When they are at their best, convenings can help develop meaningful and actionable solutions. Of course, convenings can also fall short.
JANUARY 2024 – For the past two decades, I have made a calendar using photos I have taken in the preceding year. At first, the calendar featured my children. Once the teen years settled in, the topic of the calendar switched to the family dog.
I like making an annual calendar of photos of the year gone by because it gives me an opportunity to reflect on that time period. The photos transport me through a range of memories. The retrospective also allows me to plan for the year ahead. What are my goals? What adventures should I plan? What should I spend time learning?
NOVEMBER 2023 – Last month, at the invitation of The Kennedy Forum, I delivered a keynote titled, The Philanthropic Role in Funding Mental Health at the Alignment for Progress Conference. Today, I share a recap of that keynote for your consideration and feedback.
I began by reflecting upon the life and legacy of Dorothea Dix, one of the original philanthropists to focus on the decriminalization of mental illness. After witnessing the abhorrent treatment of people with mental illness in a Massachusetts jail and in other states across the nation, Dorothea, with inherited wealth, set out to build a framework for community-based treatment.
Known by many as the mother of the asylum movement, Dorothea understood that access to community-based mental health treatment was a local issue that would benefit from federal support. Dorothea successfully advocated for care in communities in 30 states and persuaded Congress to pass the nation’s first federal legislation to fund mental health in 1854. This law sought to designate federal land upon which to establish hospitals for those with mental illness. However, President Franklin Pierce refused to sign the law as he believed that mental health — along with other forms of social welfare services — were matters best addressed by the states and not the federal government.
Correctional facilities in the US are considered the largest provider of mental health services.1 The Sozosei Foundation is tackling the question—"What can be done to accelerate solutions so that we eliminate the inappropriate use of jails and prisons for mental health care?” But tackling the criminalization of mental illness is complex and there is no single solution or ‘magic bullet’ to eliminate the use of jail or prison for the treatment of people with mental illness. Identifying effective solutions is difficult, in part, due to the limited availability of data needed to evaluate whether solutions work.
To understand the Sozosei Foundation’s approach to impact, a team from the RAND Corporation interviewed grantees, representatives from partner organizations and thought leaders; reviewed scientific and grey literature; and met bi-weekly with the Foundation’s Executive Director. This document summarizes what the RAND team learned about the Foundation’s approach to impact and an evaluation strategy that aligns with this approach.
The Sozosei Foundation launched its Resilient Communities Program (RCP) in the summer of 2020 at the request of Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. (OAPI), with the intent of evolving the company’s longstanding commitment to philanthropy. The goal of the program was to refine the company’s philanthropic commitment by designing guidelines and priorities to support diverse, under-resourced communities where the company has a presence. Over the two years of its grantmaking, the program provided over $1 million in grants and served over 177,000 people across six target communities.
When COVID-19 swept across the United States in the Spring of 2020, Sozosei had just formalized its governance structure and was in the midst of a national search for its inaugural executive director. Simultaneously, Sozosei – with leadership from its Board of Directors — moved swiftly to address the immediate needs of patients, healthcare workers, and families impacted by COVID-19.