Campus of USC. Photo by John Schreiber.
Campus of USC. Photo by John Schreiber.

USC‘s Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy and Ethics was awarded a $205,000 grant to develop a patient-centered approach to improve the lives of people with mental illness, it was announced Wednesday.

Elyn Saks, a USC Gould School of Law professor and director of the Saks Institute, will undertake a three-year study “with a goal of improving care, reducing stigma, increasing self-determination and decreasing health costs for people struggling with mental illness,” according to the institute.

“For the most part, society responds to those in crisis by taking away their rights with restrictive means like institutionalization and conservatorship,” Saks said. “Our new supported decision-making approach will help those with mental illness to plan their care in a more active way.”

The Battery Powered Foundation of San Francisco selected the Saks Institute after a competitive nationwide application process. The foundation sought organizations that are achieving “truly transformational and differentiated results,” said Abbey Banks, who oversees the Battery Powered program.

“The Saks Institute is making huge strides to support mental health challenges we face today and for generations to come,” Banks said.

Saks, a mental health expert who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her early 20s, believes the patient centered decision-making project “will transform the mental health field.”

“Supported Decision Making has the potential to transform the lives of people with mental illness in a way that has not been done before,” she said. “Being a consumer and a legal scholar, I know the complexity — and the benefits — of giving a voice to people with mental illness to live their best life.”

The Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy and Ethics, a think tank at USC Gould School of Law, was founded by Saks, a MacArthur “Genius Award” recipient.

–City News Service

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