Community News
DB, MH Advocate Join Forces
Psychiatric News
Volume 38 Number 14 page 11-11

In 1993 the Northern California Psychiatric Society (an APA district branch) set up the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California to seek tax-deductible contributions from society members and to use the money for various good works. The district branch saw the creation of the foundation as a way to impact the mental health care of the community.

Then in 1998 the foundation experienced some unexpected good news. San Francisco resident Mary Jane Brinton made a generous donation to it, with the promise of annual renewals and with the stipulation that the money be used to help mentally ill homeless people in San Francisco.

Brinton had been an activist with a local grass-roots group of religious leaders who had been advocating for homeless people for years. So when she had the wherewithal to do something financially for this population, this is how she decided that she wanted it to be used.

Brinton did not specify, however, exactly how she wanted her money to be used. So "there was an issue about what was the best thing to do," Mel Blaustein, M.D., president of the foundation, told Psychiatric News. Blaustein and the other foundation board members put their heads together and decided that the money could best be used to set up a project that would directly serve the needs of mentally ill homeless people.

They also decided that the most effective way to meet this goal would be via community homeless centers that were already established. This way, homeless people could receive mental health care in centers that already had good reputations and were trusted. Moreover, mental health services for the homeless could be linked with general medical services and social services for the homeless, and overhead costs could be kept to a minimum.

Thus, the Brinton Homeless Project was born in 1999, and Brinton has expressed her satisfaction with it through annual donations. Since then, the project has helped at least 300 homeless persons with mental health problems (see story).

The foundation is also gathering statistics about the population it serves so that it can demonstrate the value of the project and raise more money for it, Blaustein said.

The foundation may also use the data for advocacy purposes—that is, to provide information to legislators on the mental health needs of San Francisco’s homeless population, Adam Nelson, M.D., the psychiatrist chosen by the foundation to lead the project, said in an interview.

"We have not yet found anybody else who has devoted so much exclusive time and energy and resources to the mental health of San Francisco’s homeless as has the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California," he said.

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