Our Interview with Treatment Advocacy Center

Evelyn Burton, a longtime friend and partner of Help in the Home, is a consummate advocate of the way the state of Maryland manages and cares for those with severe mental illnesses. Evelyn is also a natural gatherer of people, to include mental health professionals. In 2005 we provided testimony to support the legislation for an Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) in the state of Maryland and it was through this opportunity that we were able to hear the testimony provided by a Treatment Advocacy Center lawyer and learn more about what they do.

Treatment Advocacy Center’s founder, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, was an advisor to NAMI for many years, a mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. Since meeting, we’ve kept up and collaborated with Treatment Advocacy Center and today, we’d like to introduce you to their work and mission in more detail.


HITH: Thank you so much for joining us! ​​Please introduce our audience to the Treatment Advocacy Center.

Treatment Advocacy Center: The Treatment Advocacy Center, headquartered in Arlington, VA., was founded in 1998 by well-known psychiatrist and schizophrenia researcher. Dr.  E. Fuller Torrey. The Treatment Advocacy Center’s mission is to eliminate barriers to treatment for people with severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. We have produced a manual for mental health professionals who are implementing assisted outpatient treatment (AOT); fought state hospital closures; published evidence-based research on topics including the impact of untreated severe mental illness on law enforcement, the criminalization of mental illness and anosognosia (“lack of insight”); filed amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court and state courts; raised public awareness of mental illness treatment issues through active media outreach; and served as a watchdog for and champion of expanded treatment options for people that need it. Read more about our impact here.  

HITH: We are huge fans of the work you do! How does the Treatment Advocacy Center differ from other advocacy agencies focusing on mental illness?

Treatment Advocacy Center: The Treatment Advocacy Center is the only national nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting laws, policies and practices that aim to improve treatment access for people with severe mental illness, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. That is important because all of our resources go to the people who need them the most. Our website and materials are there for people struggling specifically with severe mental illness. Our advocacy efforts are centered on advocating for people with SMI. We are here to serve the most overlooked population in mental health.  

HITH: We’re curious, can you tell us more about the research that you do?

Treatment Advocacy Center: The Office of Research and Public Affairs at Treatment Advocacy Center, established in 2015 as an educational program to address the role and impacts of SMI on public service systems and to conduct independent research on the effects of SMI on individuals, families and communities, has published many reports that aid policy makers and inform public opinion on issues such as, the role of SMI in fatal law enforcement encounters, the extreme shortage of psychiatric beds and SMI in super-utilization. Just last month, ORPA published a report highlighting the importance of community investment to help people with SMI get vaccinated for COVID-19. ORPA partnered with Clubhouse International, a community-based organization of 326 Clubhouses throughout the world to conduct an international survey of all Clubhouses to understand barriers and facilitators of COVID-19 vaccination among Clubhouse members. Our research found that community investment in people with serious mental illness can have a tremendous impact on their health and well-being. Read the press release and the entire report on our website, here 

HITH: What are some areas of advocacy work that you are focusing on right now?

Treatment Advocacy Center: Treatment Advocacy Center has long been a champion of assisted outpatient treatment (AOT), the practice of providing community-based mental health treatment under civil court commitment. We also push for a major increase in psychiatric hospital beds after 50 years of deinstitutionalization which has resulted in a major bed shortage. A well-functioning mental health system provides a continuum of care for the entire spectrum of individuals with psychiatric conditions, including hospitalization. Such a continuum no longer exists in the United States. Restoring psychiatric hospital beds by reforming the policies and practices that eliminate them from the spectrum is essential to providing a full range of treatment options for those who are most acutely or chronically ill.  

Recently, we added a new position, the DJ Jaffe Advocate, who will execute grassroots advocacy in specific communities in need of better outreach and representation in the advocacy world, creating direct lines of communication with local advocates who are working to better the lives of individuals with and affected by severe mental illness. We also push the federal government to make sure it is paying attention to some of the most vulnerable among us. As part of our ongoing government accountability efforts, our executive director, Lisa Dailey, called on the federal government to enact a national strategy to ensure that people with SMI are vaccinated from COVID-19 by publishing an op-ed last April in The Hill. One of our other top priorities right now is repealing the IMD exclusion, a Medicaid provision that excludes people from getting the inpatient care they desperately need. Read our Legislative and Policy Counsel Michael Gray’s ep-ed in The Hill to learn more about why this discriminatory law must be repealed. 

HITH: What are some ways that our readers can get more involved with your organization?

Treatment Advocacy Center: We have many ways that you can get involved in our work! An easy first step is to sign up for our weekly research update to get any news from the Treatment Advocacy Center. You can also stay up to date on our work by following our social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram

A very rewarding way to get involved is to write in our Personally Speaking blog series. This is a great way for family members and people with SMI to share their story in order to build community and make sure that nobody feels alone in this journey. You can read past entries here and email warnere@treatmentadvocacycenter.org if you are interested in submitting a blog. 

Telling your story is one of the biggest pieces of advocacy you can do and we would love to help you do it!

Lastly, you can sign up to donate here to help us continue to do this very important work. We are the only national non-profit in the mental health space to not take pharmaceutical company money, so donate today to ensure that those with SMI are not left behind.  


A heartfelt thank you to Treatment Advocacy Center for joining us on the blog this month!

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