NY mental health commissioner lauds Israeli rehab progress
Dr. Hogan said that a major change has occurred, in which psychiatric patients are now regarded as having good potential for “recovery.”
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Israel’s 10-year-old law establishing a basket of services for rehabilitating psychiatric patients in the community has produced “greater accomplishments” since 2000 than New York State and the entire US have achieved during the same period, Dr. Michael Hogan, commissioner of his state’s Office of Mental Health, said in Jerusalem on Monday.He was speaking at a daylong conference at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, organized by the Health Ministry to mark the 10th anniversary of the law’s passage. Over 1,000 people from the field attended.“Imagine that you have only begun,” said Hogan, who disclosed that part of his motivation for entering the field was that his brother suffers from schizophrenia.“You cannot imagine what you will achieve in the next 10 years. Dream high, and you will achieve much more,” he assured the audience.Hogan said that a major change has occurred, in which psychiatric patients are now regarded as having good potential for “recovery.”This word, he stressed, no longer refers only to the symptoms of serious mental illness going away, but also with people – despite some symptoms treated mostly with medications – being able to have normal lives and achievements.“We who work in hospitals and clinics don’t see those who don’t come back because of the progress they have made. We see only those people who are still sick,” the American psychiatrist said.“While not all will be cured, don’t give up on anyone.Mental health recovery is a journey, not an outcome.This understanding requires a new approach to care. It is not just treating symptoms.”The bill, described at the conference as “one of Israel’s most important pieces of social legislation and among the most advanced in the world,” was initiated by then-MK Tamar Gozansky (Hadash), who was present on Monday and hailed by the audience for her work on mental health and other social issues.Until the law was implemented, people with psychiatric illnesses were entitled to medical treatment but had no rights to social, occupational, housing and other services, and there was no set budget for this. Hogan, who is in charge of services in New York State that serve a population four times that of Israel’s with an annual budget of $5 billion at his disposal, lauded Israel’s “remarkable achievements in mental health rehabilitation in the community.”The community assistance programs were initiated and supervised by Yehiel Shereshevsky, a psychologist dubbed “Mr. Rehabilitation,” who has for many years managed the ministry’s mental health rehabilitation efforts in the community. He plans to move on next year.Former health minister Nissim Dahan (Shas), who was instrumental in promoting the law’s implementation during his short tenure at the ministry, was a panel member at the conference. Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) was among those dignitaries who greeted the participants.A feature on the Health Ministry conference will appear on the Health & Science Page on Sunday.
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