How the Covid Vaccine Impacts the SMI Community (ft. Dr.Pickar)

The Treatment Advocacy Center recently shared a JAMA Psychiatry study which found that a schizophrenia diagnosis is the second largest predictor of mortality from COVID-19.

You may be wondering what a diagnosis of a severe mental illness has to do with COVID-19. The JAMA study goes on to state that, “Aside from the significant barriers to medical treatment this population faces, one hypothesis is that the biological factors related to schizophrenia could increase mortality risk. In other words, it is possible that the relationship between schizophrenia and immune system and inflammatory problems could also be playing a role in how these patients react to COVID-19, putting them at a higher risk of infection or severe infection.”

The challenges communities like ours face

As a company that has dedicated our lives to helping individuals with SMI find joy in the here and now, we have made it a primary focus to support our clients in getting access to the vaccine. Unlike group homes, assisted living, and nursing homes that have direct contact with pharmacies that are giving vaccines – our supported living community finds itself in a gray area where we do not qualify for that priority. 

The recent findings of the JAMA study confirms our reasoning for remaining persistent; that there is a clear need for our clients to be a higher priority to lower their risk of mortality and to bring peace of mind as we open up to interact with others outside of the community. 

What’s next at Help in the Home?

If there’s one thing we’ve become proficient at in the past year –  it’s pivoting, shifting our mindset and finding creative solutions in the interim. While we continue efforts to get our community members on vaccination lists across the state- our employees, community members and their families continue to be positive, mindful of the bigger picture, and eagerly awaiting what’s next after they’ve received their second dose of the vaccine. Though we cannot know for sure, we hope this will happen some time in March. The possibility of reconnecting with families and friends outside of our community in person overjoys us in the best of ways.

A special video message from Dr. David Pickar for the HITH community

Dr. David Pickar is a near and dear friend of Help in the Home. Aside from treating several of our community members, Dr. Pickar’s experiences and perspective has given our community practical tips and encouragement through the good and bad days of the past year.

In this video message, Dr. Pickar shares a few thoughts about the pandemic and offers some points of encouragement and most up to date information for you to consider on mask use, vaccinations, and the anxiety and stress many are facing during this time.  

To watch the full video – check out our YouTube channel!

We are all in this together.  Every time you make a preventive effort you are helping not just yourself but someone else.  We will look back at this and we truly believe that our resilience will remain part of us into the future.


David Pickar, M.D., is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.  Dr. Pickar has served on the Psychiatry Drug Advisory Committee for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 2014-2018.  He is Fellow Emeritus of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and is Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.   

Dr. Pickar served in the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for over 20 years where he was the Chief of the Experimental Therapeutics Branch dedicated to studying schizophrenia and psychosis.  Dr. Pickar’s work revealing the therapeutic effects of alpha2 antagonist adjunctive treatment for schizophrenia is currently in clinical development.  Dr. Pickar participates in neuropsychiatric drug development with emerging biotechnology companies. 

Dr. Pickar served as Chair of the Tenure and Promotion Committee in Intramural NIMH and received numerous honors and awards in the course of his career, including the Judith Silver Memorial Young Scientist Award of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), the AE Bennett Neuropsychiatric Research Award of the Society of Biological Psychiatry and the Meritorious Service Medal for Exemplary Performance of Duty from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He has served as NIMH Consultant to the U.S. Secret Service and on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the American Foundation for AIDS Research.   

 Dr. Pickar is founder and President of Gabriel Sciences, a company whose mission is advancing the development of a novel treatment for schizophrenia.  Dr. Pickar was also co-founder of Comprehensive Neuroscience, Inc a clinical trials and medical communication company where he served as a Director, Executive Vice-President and Chief Science Officer. 

 Per Google Scholar, Dr. Pickar has authored or co-authored over 400 publications and with over 27,000 citations and an h-index of 86.

Dr. Pickar is the Producer of the documentary film, The Realities of Serious Mental Illness.  Dr. Pickar practices psychiatry in Chevy Chase, Maryland with emphasis on the care of seriously mentally ill patients and select forensic matters.  Dr. Pickar provides psychiatric services for Mobile Med a not for profit provider of care to a majority of minority and some of the most vulnerable patients in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Dr. Pickar has served as psychiatric consultant to the US Special Prosecutor. 

Dr. Pickar is a 1969 graduate of Rutgers College with Phi Beta Kappa distinction and Varsity Letter in Lacrosse.  He received his medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine in 1973.  After completing his residency in psychiatry at Yale in 1977, Dr. Pickar joined the NIMH as a Commissioned Officer of the United States Public Health Service from where he retired as Captain (0-6) USPHS in 2000.  

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