State of MD Supports Foundation Scientific Council Member’s Early Intervention in Psychosis Program

Robert W. Buchanan, M.D., Expert on schizophrenia research
Robert W. Buchanan, M.D.

On October 21st The Baltimore Sun reported that Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Scientific Council Member Robert W. Buchanan, M.D., will direct a new Center of Excellence on Early Intervention for Serious Mental Illnesses at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The Center will offer a multidisciplinary approach to identify people at high risk for developing psychosis, working with individuals between the ages of 12 and 30. The Center is being developed with $1.2 million in state funds that were appropriated as part of gun-control legislation that also seeks to augment programs to help the mentally ill.

Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality that involves experiencing delusions (false beliefs about what is taking place or who one is) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't there) and is usually a symptom of a psychiatric illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Much recent research has shown that outcomes are better for patients if they are diagnosed early, based on early warns signs, rather than waiting to treat until after a full-blown psychotic episode occurs.

The majority of people afflicted with psychoses never commit violent acts, let alone the kinds of horrific, high-profile crimes that have made news headlines in recent times (e.g., VA Tech and Newtown, CT), said Dr. Buchanan, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland Medical School. But he went on to explain that psychosis leaves sufferers at higher-than-normal risk for abusing alcohol and drugs, experiencing trauma and engaging in self-destructive and violent behaviors that make this “a critically important public-health aspect.”

According to Dr. Buchanan, The Center will act as an umbrella of several different elements including:

  • Enhancement of existing school mental health programs (The Center for the School of Mental Health was established in the mid-1990s to study and improve mental health services in schools)
  • Support of two first-episode psychoses clinics – one in Baltimore and one in Catonsville
  • The rollout of a Clinical High-Risk Program to treat those with early warning signs before illness fully develops

Research over the past two decades has shown that patients respond better to treatment the earlier they are diagnosed. “If there’s a theme here, it’s that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of medicine,” says former NARSAD Grantee Jason Schiffman, Ph.D., a psychologist at University of Maryland Baltimore County and a lead member of the team rolling out the Clinical High-Risk Program.

Read the article in The Baltimore Sun.

Article comments

This is good news to hear of the work Dr. Buchanan is doing. I only wish our Medical provider here in Roseville, CA had the same pro-active attitude. I don't blame them completely for my 24 year old son's now fully diagnosed with Schizophrenia but it took them more than three 3 years and nearly a four week psychiatric hospitalization. Up til that point his diagnoses was Pyschosis. I provided both his therapist & pyschiatrist with pages of his daily behaviors & symptoms for more than a year, and because my son signed a release of information form I was able to communicate with them until his hospitalization. The health system has so many holes especially for these mentally ill people. Pryor to my son's release from the hospital in Aug. this year he assured the Dr. he would be returning home to live. In reading his discharge papers I was surprised to see they evaluated him only as "Improved" and not "stable" upon his release. After he was home for just a brief hour and a half driving off in his car with no explanation I called the hospital and was told that it was an "acute" care facility and they had to release him. I spent the first week with him every day going to the various programs and county services available to him, but he refused to start any of them. He has been living in his car. He is in contact with his father & I, some of his siblings & other family, thankfully. I bring him cooked meals, clean cloths and his mail when he wants it. He has most recently looked into housing programs, but doesn't want to live with anyone. I could go on and on but I think you can see how his situation looks so at loose ends and how I feel somehow they let him fall through the cracks.

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