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.
The Foundation recently kicked off a series of Global Solution Labs to surface more knowledge and perspectives about how to create a future where mental illness is not treated as a crime. Over 50 multidisciplinary “Solutionists” gathered on May 7, 2021, to take on the ambitious task of identifying the top solutions to move the needle on the decriminalization of mental illness.
In the spirit of collaboration, we recently hosted a Virtual Book Club featuring authors and renowned psychiatrist Dr. James Knoll and renowned psychologist Dr. Joel Dvoskin. Led by Sozosei Board Member, Mary Chi Michael, Dr. Knoll and Dr. Dvoskin discussed their contribution to the recently released book, “Decriminalizing Mental Illness” with more than 100 attendees.