Baer Foundation devoted to funding research on schizophrenia
-By Gilien Silsby
The Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics has been awarded a $225,000 grant from The Sidney R. Baer Jr. Foundation, an organization that funds cutting-edge research and services supporting people with schizophrenia.
“We are honored and thrilled to receive this generous grant,” said professor Elyn Saks, who founded the Saks Institute in 2010 at the USC Gould School of Law. “We are doing some very exciting work in mental health, and this gift will help us achieve many of our long-term goals.”
Saks, who has battled schizophrenia and acute psychosis since she was a teenager, launched the institute with funds she received as a 2009 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius grant.” The institute fosters interdisciplinary and collaborative research among scholars and policymakers who deal with issues of mental illness and mental health.
“Elyn is truly an inspiration for all of us,” said George B. Handran, a trustee of the Baer Foundation. “She is battling schizophrenia and doing a remarkable job with her life. If we can’t afford to fund her institute, we are not serious about schizophrenia.”
Sidney R. Baer Jr., whose family owned the Stix Baer & Fuller department store chain, established his foundation in 1999 to benefit mental health programs and research. After he died in 2002, he left his estate to the foundation under the management of Handran and U.S. Bank National Association, the co-trustees. To date, the foundation has given more than $20 million to fund 20 organizations and research grants of 75 doctors.
“Sidney faced real mental health challenges and was committed to helping people afflicted with mental illness,” Handran said. “His goal was to stimulate education, research and direct care in the mental health field. I know he would be impressed with Elyn and the Saks Institute.”
As part of its mission each year, the Saks Institute selects a single mental health issue to study - a distinguished lecture event is held in the fall and a two-day symposium in the spring. Last year, the theme centered on mechanical restraints. This year, the institute will look at psychotropic drugs.
Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles Times columnist and author of The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music, will serve as the institute’s distinguished speaker on Nov. 16. Kitty Dukakis, the wife of former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, will headline the symposium in spring 2012.
“I’m excited about the year ahead,” Saks said. “I feel fortunate to be supported by so many people, and I am truly grateful to the Baer Foundation and George Handran. They are truly committed to our mission of understanding mental illness through interdisciplinary research and dialogue to affect laws, policies, ethics and actions.”