Jarad was about 19 years old when he started to hear voices of people who weren't there. Soon after, birds and animals began talking to him "about totally random things."
As he struggled to make sense of what was happening to him, Jarad convinced himself that the sun had grown larger, introducing a new frequency of sound waves that allowed him to hear these new voices. His torment was about to come to an end when he imagined his mother handing him a gun, telling him he would know what to do with it. Although he says he realized the gun was imaginary, he still believed his mother had told him to kill himself.
So, he found a rope and went into the woods to hang himself. "Just as I was passing out, I realized that this wasn't right, this wasn't the way I wanted go," says Jarad. He quickly scrambled up the rope and the tree branch and went home.
Time to seek help
With the bruises around his neck still fresh, Jarad and his family finally sought help. When he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he says he felt oddly relieved.
"My psychiatrist understood what I was going through and I didn't feel so alone anymore," he says.
Jarad is now 23 and just graduated from college with a bachelor's degree. He is on medication and doing well in therapy, says his psychiatrist, UC Davis professor Cameron Carter. But Carter wants to prevent other young people from having to experience a life-threatening event like Jarad's.
A new $2 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will help Carter in his prevention efforts.
The funding launches a communitywide research initiative, called the Early Detection and Intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis Program. The goal is to identify young people who show early signs of psychosis and prevent the onset and consequences of serious mental illness.
One of four sites
UC Davis is one of only four sites selected from a limited number of organizations across the country qualified to do this type of work.
"This project is really about creating a paradigm shift in how we think about treating mental illness in which we move from a palliative-care model to prevention," says Carter, who will direct the new program.
"Instead of a picking-up-the-pieces approach in treating serious and debilitating mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, we will work to preserve function and maintain social, occupational and academic development in teens and young adults," he says. "Our expectation is that we can avoid what is now considered the standard outcome for these youth – school failure, occupational failure, social isolation, homelessness, incarceration, hospitalization and devastating events like Virginia Tech."
The program seeks to replicate an innovative and highly promising approach to psychosis prevention developed in Portland, Maine. There, approximately 86 percent of at-risk young people who enrolled in the Portland Identification and Early Referral program did not experience a full-blown psychotic episode a year later. According to experts, the expected rate would be 50 to 60 percent for that group of young people.
More than 15 community organizations in the Sacramento area, ranging from the African-American Mental Health Providers to the La Familia Counseling Center and the Hmong Women's Heritage Association, are partnering with UC Davis in this effort to educate others who interact with youths regularly to recognize the early signs of psychotic illness.
The program will focus on youths, ages 12 to 25, who show early symptoms of psychotic illness but do not yet have the disease. Young people at higher risk and their families will receive evidenced-based, psychosocial support and education, treatment, and medication. Those with a much lower risk will receive careful monitoring, support and referrals for further treatment, as needed.
Private funding of this project was critical, Carter says: "A project on this scale would not have received funding without the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which believes that what we are doing will have a quick impact on policy and contribute to a fundamental change in addressing the needs of this population."
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A real estate development firm whose major partners include five prominent local families has donated 15 acres of undeveloped land valued at $8.17 million to UC Davis Health System. The property, at the northeast corner of Whitney Boulevard and Highway 65 in Rocklin, will be used for medical facilities to serve the health-care needs of this fast-growing region of Northern California
The gift is from River South Holdings, LLC, whose partners include Mark Friedman of Fulcrum Properties; Martin Harmon of Western Care Construction; the Tsakopoulos family, represented by Kyriakos Tsakopoulos of AKT Development; Brian Vail of River West Investments; and John Sinadinos, an attorney and developer. Many of the partners have a history of philanthropic support for UC Davis.
"This generous donation has far-reaching benefits for UC Davis Health System and the many residents it serves throughout the region," said Larry Vanderhoef, chancellor of UC Davis. "By providing this gift, these philanthropists have demonstrated a commitment to the health of our community and to society as a whole. We are deeply grateful for their support."
Health system officials envision using the 15-acre gift to develop a health campus offering a range of outpatient services, including cancer care. The health system already has physician practices in Placer County, and has submitted plans to the city of Rocklin planning commission for a new outpatient facility on a site adjacent to the gift parcel. That facility will include comprehensive imaging services and an infusion center for cancer patients. Health system officials expect that facility to be completed by the end of 2008.
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The Koret Foundation Funds, a San Francisco-based philanthropy, has donated $500,000 to UC Davis Health System for its new surgery and emergency care facilities now under construction.
Claire Pomeroy, vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences at UC Davis and dean of the School of Medicine, said the gift is crucial to funding the much-needed building, scheduled to open in 2009.
"As the region's population grows," said Pomeroy, "it's clear we also need to keep growing to meet the expected demand for medical services, especially in the areas of trauma and emergency care."
The $424-million Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion will replace and update the currently undersized emergency department and operating room while meeting required seismic upgrades.
For the emergency department, the new facilities will be able to accommodate 70 patients at a time, up from 43. In addition, three dozen more chairs will be added to the 76 seats now available in the expanded waiting area. The surgery department also is expanding, adding eight more operating rooms to the existing 16.
The department will add another 20 intensive care beds for its postoperative care, with half designated for trauma and vascular cases and the other 10 beds used to accommodate cardiac and transplant surgery patients. Plans also call for doubling the size of the UC Davis Regional Burn Center.
The capital campaign, which has a goal of $20 million, has raised and has pledges for nearly $3.5 million. If you are interested in learning more about how you can support the new Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion, please contact Kathryn Keyes in Health Sciences Advancement at (916) 734-9400.