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With the promise of a wide array of services and a state-of-the-art facility for those suffering from serious mental illness, a pair of golden scissors cut the ribbon at the official opening of the new Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC), located across Binney Street from BWH’s Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center.
At the ceremony on Jan. 31, BW/F President Betsy Nabel, MD, recalled her residency at Brigham and Women’s in the 1980s, and how, as she walked the campus, she was often struck by how BWH and MMHC fit together so well. With the opening of this new center, she said we will become a community once more.
“Massachusetts Mental Health Center has returned to the neighborhood with a state-of-the-art facility that cares holistically for those with mental illness,” Nabel said. “And as partners and neighbors, we pledge to you that we will continue to support you and work with you to provide the highest quality care and treatment to your clients.”
The original center was opened in 1912 in Mission Hill, and when it closed in 2003, much of the staff was relocated to the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain. With the completion of this new center, which began serving clients in October 2011, those services have come back to 75 Fenwood Rd. and 20 Vining St.
Barbara Leadholm, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health (DMH), said it was fitting that she was at the event, as her first job was as a nurse with the center. Within the next week, Leadholm will step down as commissioner of the DMH.
“We have gained a valuable asset by allowing the development of land that might have remained unused,” said Leadholm. “Now that the project has been completed, the new Massachusetts Mental Health Center will allow the Department of Mental Health to reinvigorate its effort on behalf of people with various mental illnesses. Consumers and staff of the Mass Mental Health Center have returned to their community.”
Partners HealthCare President and CEO Gary Gottlieb, MD, MBA, was involved at the very beginning on the development plan for the new center, and remarked on how much MMHC was missed throughout the community. He remembered the work that went into establishing this facility and how grateful he was to see the staff again in their new home.
“Each and every one of you has been dedicated to seeing this day and the days after count so that we have a better place for the people in this community to receive mental health
services,” Gottlieb said.
David Silbersweig, MD, chair of the BW/F Department of Psychiatry and the Institute of Neurosciences, spoke to the audience of the complexity of the human mind and how vital the work at MMHC is. He talked about the advances made in the different fields of psychiatry, which have given doctors, psychologists, social workers and other staff who care for this population the ability to provide more targeted therapy and sophisticated care plans.
“There’s no difference between having a mental illness and the related brain difficulties and having a kidney problem or a lung problem,” Silbersweig said. “It’s far past time that people in the general population realize that.”
A collaboration between BWH and the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH), the Division of Capital Asset Management and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services as well as Partners HealthCare, City of Boston, Boston City Council and Roxbury Tenants of Harvard, the center includes:
The Outpatient Clinic is a separately operated clinic that provides individual and group treatment to DMH-eligible clients, namely those with long-term, serious mental illness who meet the departments needs and means criteria. The Southard Clinic offers low-cost psychotherapy services to those not eligible for DMH services.
The Fenwood Inn provides transitional housing services to nearly 50 homeless, DMH-eligible men and women who are actively engaged in treatment geared to helping them obtain and retain permanent housing. All guests have a DMH treatment/service plan and many attend the Partial Hospital, also located at MMHC.
Medical Services Clinic
MMHC will include a Medical Services Clinic that will provide medical screening/primary care to MMHC clients who have either chronic medical problems that require ongoing monitoring or acute medical problems for which assessment and referral are necessary. The clinic, which begins construction later this year, is slated to become a patient-centered medical home, which provides a team approach to care. The medical home will be able to address the known problems that many individuals with long-term mental illness have with independently seeking or following through with primary medical care.
The event was a homecoming of sorts as well for MMHC. Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, MD said the new center reflected the first-rate skills of those working there. She said that those with mental illness usually pass away 25 years before the general population, and the center would be able to help address that disparity by helping those without access to obtain high quality health care services.
“We know this center will be a critical community resource that will not only serve their medical needs but will keep them out of the emergency rooms,” said Bigby. “We will make sure that people are healthy and well and that mental health centers are more than just delivering those services. This partnership is very important for those reasons.”