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Jessica Pratt
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Phone: 503-515-6884


February 13, 2019 by Jessica Pratt, EXCELLENCE Editor

Excellence Awards 2019 Open Dialogue Grant

The new project will be coordinated by the Institute of Cognitive Science and Technology of the Italian National Research Council and realized in collaboration with an international team of Open Dialogue researchers. 

 The Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care would like to congratulate the research team coordinated by Drs. Raffaella Pocobello (ISTC-CNR) and Giuseppe Salamina (ASL-TO) who will conduct the Expanding the Science and Practice of Open Dialogue: An international collaborative multicenter research project to evaluate the effectiveness of Open Dialogue in various mental health care contexts around the world. 

The Open Dialogue approach to early psychosis is contrasted to the standard practice of immediate diagnosis and prescribing antipsychotic medication for people experiencing early psychosis. While Open Dialogue is growing in practice around the world and shows great promise, studies worldwide are limited and lack systematic application across settings.

This new project, based on an international collaborative process, will produce consistent documentation of Open Dialogue practices across study sites and further our understanding of the challenges and successes of improving the quality of Open Dialogue practice, in particular, how Open Dialogue practices can be advanced in such a way that they are implemented with fidelity to the evidence as they are adapted for local contexts and cultures.

This grant will fund the preparatory phase (year 1) of a three-part work plan. Funds are currently being raised to support year two’s pilot phase and the subsequent main study phase.

Basic Tenets of Open Dialogue
Open Dialogue is one of the most promising approaches for mental health care. It is a family/personal network approach based on the following principles:

  • provision of immediate help
  • social network perspective
  • flexibility and mobility of treatment
  • responsibility
  • psychological continuity
  • tolerance of uncertainty
  • dialogue and polyphony

EXCELLENCE is an international mental health community foundation which matches private philanthropy to independent research projects and innovative programs that lead to recovery. Our team of donors and volunteers embodies a rich diversity of knowledge and expertise including people with lived experience of our current system of care, family members, psychiatrists and other clinical professionals, researchers, and philanthropists. EXCELLENCE strives to nurture scientific excellence and innovation in mental health research and program support by supporting scientific rigor, trauma-informed care, informed consent, peer support and recovery-based initiatives.

Principle investigators can be reached at Guiseppe Salamina and Raffaella Pocobello

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December 30, 2018 by EXCELLENCE Editor

Final Report: “Voices for Choices” Grant Project

MindFreedom International was awarded a one-year grant in the fall of 2017 to create educational web-based resources for “training effective advocates for choice.”

Project Aims
Called “Voices for Choices”, this project aimed to create free and accessible training resources for individuals to advocate for themselves or a loved one at risk for involuntary treatment and for individuals and communities to advocate for system change; to increase advocates’ ability to connect and organize potential allies, and to measurably increase participants’ sense of empowerment as effective agents of change at the community level and with legislators and government agencies. These resources include videos, a handbook and one-on-one mentorship.

The first and unexpected outcome of the grant award was a major donation from an individual inspired by the project. That donation significantly improved MindFreedom’s infrastructure, including staff, capacity for volunteer coordination, and a website revamp.

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November 19, 2018 by Jessica Pratt, EXCELLENCE Editor

Request for Proposal: Expanding the Science and Practice of Open Dialogue

Expanding the Science and Practice of Open Dialogue: An international collaborative multicenter research project to evaluate the effectiveness of Open Dialogue in various mental health care contexts around the world. Applications due January 2, 2019.


The Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care is pleased to announce this funding opportunity, Expanding the Science and Practice of Open Dialogue: An international collaborative multicenter research project to evaluate the effectiveness of Open Dialogue in various mental health care contexts around the world.  This funding opportunity provides for one multi-year award to a single eligible applicant, with the possibility to be renewed annually.

Purpose of award: The Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care (EXCELLENCE) is interested in funding a visionary, international research project that will lead to consistent documentation of Open Dialogue practices across study sites, as well as understanding challenges and successes to improve the quality of Open Dialogue practice. Applicants should propose to evaluate Open Dialogue practices in countries including those outside the United States, and be prepared to work with EXCELLENCE to advance our understanding of how Open Dialogue practices can be advanced in such a way that they are implemented with fidelity to the evidence while also being adapted for local contexts and cultures. The Open Dialogue approach to early psychosis is contrasted to the standard practice of immediate diagnosis and prescribing antipsychotic medication for people experiencing early psychosis. While Open Dialogue is growing in practice around the world and shows immense promise, studies worldwide are limited and lack systematic application across settings.

Download Full RFP (pdf)



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October 29, 2018 by Gina Nikkel, PhD, President & CEO

Big News! Announcing our new partnership with Open Society Foundations

We are so excited to finally get to tell you about the conversations we’ve been having for a couple of years now with folks at Open Society Foundations. OSF is well known internationally for its aim of “advancing justice, education, public health and independent media”. In 2016, that aim began focusing in on mental health and OSF reached out to the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care to look for common ground and opportunities for partnership.
We are now ready to cement that partnership with a three-year matching grant of $2.8M! It is a sustaining grant beginning in 2019 through 2021 to continue the good work that our visionary donors have been pioneering for the last eight years, including international study and development of Open Dialogue, Hearing Voices training, and independent professional mental health reporting.
We’ve already made a lot of progress toward securing the needed $800K match for 2019, but we still have $125K to raise in donations and pledges before the deal is closed!
How important is this work to you? Who in your life needs the work of the Foundation to continue? I myself have too many dear friends and family to name, some lost and some still fighting. But my own pledge for 2019 is a legacy I hope to leave my grandchildren, a world where people experiencing mental health challenges are empowered to make informed, effective choices for their care and are treated with dignity and respect. We can create that world together.
Please check out the different ways you can pitch in: Donate nowbecome a monthly sustaining partnerpledge to give later, or start your own fundraiser to invite friends and family into this exciting, life-giving work! And thank you!
P.S. Stay tuned for developments! We expect to see some fun, creative ways our donors will use their talents to bring new friends to the Foundation and we’ll hear from some of the amazing folks doing the good work you all are making possible.
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October 19, 2018 by Jessica Pratt, EXCELLENCE Editor

Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care Welcomes Laysha Ostrow and Ro Speight to its Board of Directors

The Excellence Board of Directors today welcomed new members Laysha Ostrow and Ro Speight at its annual retreat in Wilsonville

Ro Speight, NY-CPS

(Wilsonville, OR) – Ronda “Ro” Speight, New York Certified Peer Specialist, is committed to pioneering the advancement of Professional Peer Support in the mental health field. Specifically, helping to define what are “collaborative practices” between peer professionals and traditional mental health professions. Ro has been trained in various peer professional and progressive clinical methodologies, which benefit from integrating the peer professional perspective.

In the interest of this commitment, she has been trained in Social Networking, derived from Open Dialogue, currently aiming to utilize the strengths of both clinical and peer facilitation in the United States. Ro is trained as a Hearing Voices Network Facilitator, which is transforming traditional stigmas and perspectives of voice hearing and other alternative sensory phenomena. She is currently working as a Peer and Recovery Specialist at Mental Health Association (MHA) of Westchester, New York. MHA programs include On Track New York, a comprehensive program for young individuals experiencing first-episode psychosis and the Westchester Recovery Network, a peer-directed in-community peer support program.

Ro is also active in the larger New York community, modeling and applying peer professional competencies in traditional medical model settings. She is currently supporting the peer professional presence at New York Presbyterian Hospital- Westchester Division, developing comprehensive Peer Professional led wellness groups on inpatient units. Ro is enjoying being an agent of positive change after years of trying to personally navigate her identity and purpose through a complicated mental health system.

Laysha Ostrow, PhD

Laysha Ostrow is the founder and CEO of Live & Learn, Inc., a California-based, consumer-run and woman-owned social enterprise that provides research, technical assistance, and knowledge translation services to behavioral health system stakeholders. She is also an Adjunct Professor in the School of Community and Global Health at Claremont Graduate University and holds a PhD from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and a Master of Public Policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. Laysha completed a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF and maintains a position there as a Visiting Professional.

She has been an invited speaker at the Carter Center Symposium, the Kennedy Forum on Mental Health, the U.S. Senate HELP Committee’s roundtable to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, and the California Health Facilities Financing Authority. In 2016, Laysha was the recipient of the 2016 Carol T. Mowbray Early Career Research Award from the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association.

As a person who experienced mental health systems that are often ineffective at promoting recovery and community inclusion, she is passionate about improving these systems through research that advances the use of evidence-based practices in real-world settings.







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September 28, 2018 by EXCELLENCE Editor

New webinar added to Voices for Choices advocate toolbox


The “Voices for Choices” project is training psychiatric survivors, family members, and allies to advocate effectively for choices and alternatives in the mental health system

This Excellence-funded project honors everyone’s potential to be a leader, even those in the back wards of the most restricted psychiatric facilities. It connects people with lived experience of mental health challenges with peer mentors, equipping them to change the system of care in their communities. Sarah Smith at MindFreedom International is the project coordinator.

The first two in a series of recorded webinars are now available online featuring panelists David Oaks, Jim Gottstein, and Emily Cutler in the first and Adrian Bernard, Caroline Mazel-Carlton, and Hilary Melton in the second, presenting their findings from years of working with people in distress.

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August 23, 2018 by EXCELLENCE Editor

New Hearing Voices Peer-Support Groups from Seattle to Atlanta Strengthen Nationwide Network

The team at the Hearing Voices Research and Training Project has been accomplishing great things! The trainers continue to crisscross the country offering multi-day trainings for new facilitators of Hearing Voices peer-support groups, as well as technical assistance after the training to help new groups get up and running. The team also offers a monthly networking call for US group facilitators and a weekly online support group, attended by voice hearers across North and South America. For more information, or to discuss bringing a facilitator training to your community, contact Caroline Mazel-Carlton, Training and Outreach Coordinator:

And since there are still too many communities around the country where the Hearing Voices approach remains unknown, the Project has started awarding mini-grants to community groups to support outreach programs in their local areas. The creativity and diversity of these projects is exciting – look out for upcoming events in Atlanta, Seattle, and Palo Alto. A date for applications for another round of mini-grants will be announced soon.

The Project’s research team is equally hard at work – seeking out the experiences of people around the country who have participated in HVN peer-support groups. The goal of their study is to identify the precise characteristics that make these groups so effective for so many people. With a clearer evidence base, the researchers hope to foster wider acceptance of the Hearing Voices approach among clinicians and other mental health professionals in the US. Dozens of voice hearers around the country have already sent in their responses; if you or someone you know has participated in an HVN group and not yet completed the survey, please check it out at:

And finally, as part of the overall goal of raising the visibility of the Hearing Voices approach across the United States, the Project’s collaborative team of voice hearers, peer workers, and researchers are creating a short film, offering a powerful introduction to the approach through the stories of people whose lives have been changed by participating in HVN groups. Stay tuned for more information, available soon!

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August 13, 2018 by EXCELLENCE Editor

Online Curriculum Will Preserve Historical Lessons for Next Gen Health Professionals

Following the successful release of the documentary, Kings Park: Stories from an American Mental Institution, filmmaker Lucy Winer has teamed up with critically acclaimed author and historian, Nancy Tomes, PhD, to create a groundbreaking digital learning site aimed at the mental health care community, with special focus on those going into the healthcare profession.

Believing in the power of personal narratives to shift attitudes and inspire positive change, the site is called Unlocked: Stories of Public Mental Health Care. Rooted in the wealth of first-person narratives Lucy has filmed over the years with people who, like herself, had firsthand experience of Kings Park State Hospital, the site puts a human face on the past and its impact today.

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August 8, 2018 by EXCELLENCE Editor

Social Network Study Underway in One of New York’s First Episode Psychosis Programs: OnTrackNY at MHA Westchester

(Westchester, NY) – The New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) at Columbia University, in collaboration with the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Westchester is conducting a study to evaluate the feasibility of offering Social Network Meetings to individuals enrolled in New York State’s first episode psychosis program, OnTrackNY. The study is supported by a grant from the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care.

These Social Network Meetings are derived from the Need-Adapted Treatment and Open Dialogue models and view psychotic disorders as heterogeneous, requiring individualistic treatment. These models integrate an individual’s social network throughout the entire treatment process and provide a consistent treatment team throughout the person’s recovery.

This study is open to all English speaking OnTrackNY clients (ages 16-30) and family members of their choosing.

Over the last three months, researchers have enrolled three individuals and their families into the social network arm of this the study. All of these participants have been offered at least one social network meeting and our first set of participants have had regular social network meetings since enrolling in May.

The study team is exploring ways to increase enrollment and will be focusing enrollment efforts on individuals who are newly entering the OnTrackNY program. The study team hopes that by offering social network meetings within the OnTrackNY program that individuals will receive enhanced social support allowing them to make greater strides toward reaching their recovery goals.

Principal Investigator

Lisa Dixon, MD, MPH

Edna L. Edison Professor of Psychiatry at the Columbia University Medical Center

Director, Division of Behavioral Health Services and Policy Research & Center for Practice Innovations

New York State Psychiatric Institute

1051 Riverside Drive, Box 100, Room 2702 New York, NY  10032

Follow me on twitter @lisabdixon


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August 5, 2018 by EXCELLENCE Editor

Micronutrient Study Actively Recruiting Eligible Children in Oregon, Ohio and Alberta, Canada

Oregon Health & Science University Collaborates with The Ohio State University and University of Lethbridge to Trial Micronutrients for Children with ADHD

(Portland, OR) – The first North American trial of a 36-ingredient micronutrient formula is underway at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), The Ohio State University (OSU) and at University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. In only three months of recruiting, the Micronutrients in ADHD Youth (MADDY) Study has enrolled 40 participants among the three sites, nearly one-third of our target number. All three sites are actively recruiting eligible children to participate. The children must be off of psychotropic medication for at least two weeks prior to starting the study to meet entrance criteria. The study is supported by a grant from the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care.

Children, ages 6-12 years of age, who have ADHD and some irritable mood symptoms are participating in an 8-week randomized controlled trial. During this phase, they will receive either the active product or a matching placebo. Neither the participants’ families nor the clinicians will know which one. After 8 weeks, all the children are eligible to receive the active product for a further eight weeks.  We are collecting data on the children’s mood and behavior at baseline and comparing their reports at the end of the treatment. We are also collecting blood, urine, stool, hair and saliva to begin looking at the biological basis for why some children benefit from taking the micronutrients and others do not. The MADDY Study is based on the research from Dr. Julia Rucklidge’s lab in New Zealand in which she found that the children with ADHD and irritable, angry moods reported the most benefit from the treatment.

Several of the families who have completed the initial 8 weeks report significant improvements in their child’s functioning. While we don’t know which pills they were taking (active or placebo), it is encouraging to hear the positive stories of improvement in mood and attention, reduced anger and an ability to get along better with friends. We hope to complete MADDY recruitment by early 2019.


Jeanette Johnstone, MFT, PhD 

Licensed Psychologist and Clinical Researcher

Department of Psychiatry, Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Oregon Health & Science University

Micronutrients in ADHD Youth, The MADDY Study for The MADDY Study

(503) 494-3700 voice mail

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