NEOUCOM receives grant to further mental health awareness

Nick Walton

The Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy recently received a $5 million grant from the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation to find the best practices for treating schizophrenia.

A leader in medical education in Northeast Ohio, the foundation aims to improve the state of mental health care in the region with this grant – its largest gift ever.

“A generous gift like this at any time is welcome,” said Lois Margaret Nora, president and dean of NEOUCOM. “In this economic time, this shows how important the issue is to the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation and to us.”

The grant is being used to develop the Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center, which will provide resources and expertise to improve and enhance the treatment of the mental disorders. The program is comprised of four practices that will be implemented over the next four years.



Founded in 2001, the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation is a foundation that supports mental health, arts and education. President Rick Kellar said the idea behind the BeST Center was to create a center where cost-effective practices could be used to improve the lives of schizophrenia patients. After developing a plan for nine months, the center became a reality.

Despite the current economic climate, the foundation gave their largest donation to help fund the project.

“We could have used the economic downturn as an excuse to pull back and not make this major grant,” Kellar said. “But we also have a mission to achieve — it said a lot about our determination to accomplish our mission.”

Kellar said the center will help students because it will provide the chance to work with cutting-edge technology.

“What it allows students at the local universities to do is create opportunities for fellowships or opportunities to study or opportunities to participate in a clinical environment as a behavioral health professional,” Kellar said. “It’s a great opportunity for students with a great interest in behavioral health care to access some stuff they wouldn’t be able to access anywhere else in the nation.”

Along with providing care for mental health patients, the center will also serve as a training place for physicians and students. BeST Center Director Mark R. Munetz said Community Support Services, one of the supporting agencies behind the program, currently has psychiatry residents, pharmacy students and nursing students from the University of Akron working with the project.

“We hope we can get medical students to rotate through and experience the treatment programs and try to de-stigmatize mental illness among the medical professionals in the same way we’re trying to do it across society,” Munetz said.

Munetz said schizophrenia is a brain disorder that causes psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, along with a lack of motivation and other cognitive symptoms. The goal of the center isn’t to necessarily provide research into the disorder, but to use proven and new strategies to provide access to people who need the treatment.

“We don’t know how to cure an illness like schizophrenia, and we don’t have treatments that work for everyone, but we know a remarkable amount about how to treat this condition,” Munetz said. “But for a variety of reasons, we don’t have systems in place to offer those treatments to the majority of people with the disorder.”

The Margaret Clark Morgan Integrated Care Clinic in Akron is the first part of the BeST Center. The clinic is an example of the practices the center wants to provide to mental health patients.

“We know that people with chronic mental illness die many years earlier than others without mental illness, and often that’s because their mental illness interferes with them accessing primary medical care services,” Nora said.

Nora described the clinic as one-stop-shopping for chronically mentally ill patients because they can see primary care physicians, psychiatrists and pharmacists.

NEOUCOM is an institution that provides medical and pharmacy degrees for students while working with universities in Northeast Ohio including Kent State, the University of Akron and Youngstown State University.

Contact health reporter Nick Walton at [email protected].