Behind Northeast Ohio Medical University's Largest Private Grant in History

The Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) operates an innovative schizophrenia program called the Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center. BeST was started in 2009 with a $5 million grant from the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation, and it has aimed to take an evidence-based approach to finding, testing, and implementing clinical best practices in the treatment of schizophrenia.

According to the center, the progression from the confirmation of evidence-based practices to the routine use of those practices is too slow. One of its central goals is the acceleration of that process. BeST calls it the "gap between effective clinical practices and delivery," and it aims to close that gap — calling it an "urgent, essential, and achievable" task.

Examples include the integration of primary and mental health care, a very hot topic in health care, and so-called First Episode Psychosis, or FIRST. The idea behind FIRST is that individuals should begin treatment as soon as they experience their first episode of a psychotic illness. BeST explains that when psychosis is identified and treated earlier, patients experience a less severe illness, less disability, lower risk of relapse, and many other benefits.

Another issue is access. BeST points out that while people with schizophrenia often can improve their lives significantly when treated with antipsychotic medications and psychosocial therapies, many patients do not have access to these effective treatments. BeST hopes that its own innovations will help to make mental health care a greater priority, even in areas with less access to mental health professionals.

It is these best practices that initiatives like BeST can help to create and promulgate. And the center's ability to do so will be immensely helped by a recent $5.5 million grant from the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation for the continuation of the program. This grant is the largest from a private funder in NEOMED's history, and it ensures the continued work of BeST to improve health care for those with schizophrenia and other mental disorders.