Fountain House: The Case for Why This Social Support Service Helps the Seriously Mentally Ill Reduce Their Need for Medical Care

University Seminar
Speakers: Ralph Aquila, MD • Medical Director, Fountain House
James Knickman, PhD • Derzon Clinical Professor, NYU Robert F Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

Ralph AquilaAs a community psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Aquila has helped thousands of indigent New Yorkers living with some of the most serious forms of mental illness, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He pioneered the concept of a “health home” long before it gained popularity in the rest of the country. At the Sidney R. Baer Jr. Health Center, where Dr. Aquila is Director, Fountain House members receive comprehensive medical and behavioral health services at one state-of-the-art centralized location. Dr. Aquila is largely responsible for establishing and growing Fountain House’s wellness program, which addresses disturbing statistics that demonstrate people with mental illness live on average 25 years less than the general population. Studies also confirm they have higher smoking and substance abuse rates, poor diets, greater exposure to infectious diseases, are less physically active, lack education about healthy alternatives, and suffer from endocrine, neurologic, cardiovascular side effects and weight gain from antipsychotic medications. The wellness program’s goals are to create a health-conscious culture at Fountain House and to introduce a broad array of wellness practices into the life of the community, offering education and resources so members can make healthy life-choices.

KnickmanDr. James Knickman is the Derzon Clinical Professor at the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Dr. Knickman will serve as Director of the Health Evaluation and Analytics Program (HEAP), a joint initiative of the Wagner Health Policy and Management Program and the NYU School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health. Jim will also have faculty appointment at the NYU School of Medicine. Dr. Knickman was previously the president and CEO of the New York State Health Foundation, a position he held since May, 2006. The Foundation focuses on high impact interventions to bring about measurable improvements in New York’s health system. Prior to that appointment, Dr. Knickman was Vice President for Research and Evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). At RWJF, Dr. Knickman served on the executive group that set strategy and made decisions related to a $400 million annual grant-making agenda, with specific duties focused on management of grant-making in the research and evaluation areas comprising approximately 25% of the foundation’s activities. Prior to RWJF, Jim was Professor of Health Policy and Health Administration at NYU Wagner. Dr. Knickman serves as a board member of the National Council on Aging in Washington, D.C., and of Philanthropy New York. He is a member of Fordham College’s Board of Visitors, the national advisory committee of the National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services, and the external advisory committee of the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy. He has published extensive research on issues related to the financing of health care and long-term care and improving services for frail elders, homeless families, and individuals with HIV. Dr. Knickman is the co-author of a widely used textbook on health policy and management. Dr. Knickman received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Psychology from Fordham University and his Ph.D. in Public Policy Analysis from the University of Pennsylvania.