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A wonderful New York Times article illustrates something our country has never seen.

A growing push that expands the range of options for mental health treatments and improves the ways to maximize recovery.

Rather than relying on diagnostic labels, overmedication and involuntary restraint, the article highlights how mental health treatment should include nonmedical, holistic recovery approaches along with the best of medications and modern neuroscience. This treatment is available through in-home services, support groups and residential centers.

To be sure, most of our residents at CooperRiis benefit from some medications that are necessary either in a crisis or for the long-term. But even when medication is necessary, it’s not sufficient. Mental health conditions are complex and individualized. There is no evidence that the permanent use of high levels of medication helps anyone recover a socially-engaged, purposeful and self-directed life.

We were glad to see CooperRiis included in the New York Times story. Some of our residents have been hospitalized dozens of times, but often the stays are not long enough and don’t include a broad, integrated approach. That means the help patients receive can fade in a few days.

Instead of treating illness, CooperRiis is built on wellness.

Our residents experience a holistic approach that includes daily service work, peer interaction, diet, exercise, self-esteem and empowerment. The focus is not just mental health, it’s optimal health.

These elements aid our residents in setting goals and achieving dreams in an environment that feels like a “Recovery College.” Residents and their families get beyond helplessness and blame to a positive place of hope, support and transformation.

The results?

About 80 percent of residents who complete our program reach the level of independence they desire and are successfully reintegrated into the community.

Here’s one story that shows the benefits of shifting from medication to a holistic recovery.

 A recent high school graduate had been hospitalized six times. Her parents said she received only a “psychiatric Band-Aid,” though, and it didn’t hold. She hid in her closet with a kitchen knife, emerging only to lie next to her mom and weep uncontrollably.

At CooperRiis, the young woman learned job skills and developed hobbies. Previously she could barely handle the stress of walking out of her home, but she now attends college and has assembled a team of faculty, staff, adult friends and students who offer support.

She calls it “my own little CooperRiis.”

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