December 09, 2005

Early Treatment Program, North Carolina

Following is a good example of the Early Psychosis Diagnosis and Treatment centers that are popular in Australia, England, Canada and Norway - but that are now slowly starting to be developed in the US.

Two-thirds of people diagnosed with schizophrenia end up disabled. A new program in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is aimed at changing that.

In an arty office lounge near University Mall, young adults, their parents and mental health professionals gathered Wednesday for an open house. Over chicken kabobs and pitas, they shared with curious health professionals their fresh experiences with a program that just kicked off in September.

That program, Outreach and Support Intervention Services, works to help young adults who are newly diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder recover and return to school, work and their social lives with minimal disruption.

"In Chapel Hill, it takes about a year from the time [a person] develops delusion to when they get treatment," said Diana Perkins, a psychiatry professor in the UNC School of Medicine. "That's a long time."

Staff members hope that people who experience psychotic episodes will come to OASIS to get help more quickly.

Research at UNC-Chapel Hill and around the world has shown that good treatment early on can help people lead normal lives despite an often-dehabilitating brain disorder.

Waiting can have long-term consequences for the function of the brain as well as a person's social life.

Perkins, who is also the director of the Schizophrenia Treatment and Evaluation Program at UNC Health Care, collaborated with David Penn, a UNC-CH associate professor of psychology, and Bebe Smith, STEP's director of outpatient services, to start OASIS.

They modeled the program, for people 16 to 36, after early psychosis programs in Australia, England, Canada and Norway.

The program provides therapy for individuals and family members, education about the illness, and outreach in homes alongside medical treatment.

"We try to intervene in that age group in their 20s, when they can go back to college, can go back to work," said Sylvia Saade, program director. "We want to make sure that they can go back to functioning in society."

Currently about 50 people are in the program, which can serve as many as 100 clients at a time.


Contact Sylvia Saade, director of OASIS, at 929-2311, ext. 204. More information will soon be available on the Web at

Or, see the full list of the World's Early Diagnosis and Treatment Centers for Schizophrenia and Psychosis

Source: The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina)


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