A Home to Heal
Washington, D.C.-based philanthropic partner motivated by son's battle with mental illness.By Mayo Clinic Staff
After going through challenging experiences with his son's care, Sylvan Herman teamed up with Mayo Clinic to provide a different approach to residential treatment facilities for those battling mental illness.
The Sylvan C. Herman Foundation and Mayo Clinic have worked together to establish the John E. Herman Home and Treatment Facility in Rochester, Minnesota, named for one of Sylvan's sons. This adult residential treatment facility houses people with serious mental illnesses who are attempting to move back into their communities after more-intensive care.
Most importantly, the John E. Herman Home follows a unique approach to residential treatment that Sylvan has shown to be successful in residential treatment facilities he established in Maryland, called ClearView Communities. The focus of ClearView Communities is to connect patients with competitive employment, education and volunteer opportunities as they return to health. The facility pairs the strengths of each organization to build something truly unique — with ClearView's concept for job-oriented care and Mayo Clinic's world-class health resources and academic research experience, there truly is no place like it anywhere else.
Belief in a Different Approach
"A job-oriented program creates confidence and self-esteem and puts the patient in a position where he is finally doing something on his own and making a difference in his life," Sylvan says.
Sylvan's belief in this approach is so strong that he made a visionary philanthropic gift through the Sylvan C. Herman Foundation to establish the new residential treatment facility in Rochester. Mayo Clinic recognizes the Sylvan C. Herman Foundation as a Philanthropic Partner.
Sylvan's involvement in mental health care was inspired by one of his sons, John, who lived with a serious mental illness. Sylvan was desperate to help his son, but he felt powerless as he saw John go down a path that many people with mental illnesses have followed. John experienced a mental health crisis; he was treated in an intensive setting; he moved to a residential care setting for rehabilitation; and finally, he returned to his parents' home.
Then, the cycle would repeat.
The transition from intensive and residential services back to a home environment never seemed to prepare John to reintegrate into a healthy daily routine, Sylvan says. He would struggle with his medications, and sometimes with substance abuse. Before long, he would experience another crisis.
Sylvan dedicated himself to making a lasting change that would prevent other families from going through the same experience.
"At that point I decided I was going to do something about mental illness," Sylvan says.
'We Make a Difference, No Question'
Drawing on his professional experience as a real estate developer, Sylvan founded ClearView Communities and began developing a new type of residential treatment facility. Its directive for treatment was simple: The facilities would make a priority of connecting residents with employment, education and volunteering opportunities in addition to their mental health and substance abuse treatment.
The concept has been a success. ClearView Communities has shown an impressive rate of patients successfully reintegrating to their communities.
"We make a difference. There's no question about it," Sylvan says.
Others have taken notice of ClearView's success, though from an academic medical perspective, ClearView's facilities offer a small sample size. To add scientific rigor to ClearView's concept, a robust research protocol would be needed.
Mayo Clinic has the necessary resources to bring a research protocol to the innovative program. Sylvan and leaders in Mayo Clinic's Department of Psychology and Psychiatry have worked over a number of years to adapt the concept to the Mayo Clinic Model of Care.
Research-Based, Compassionate Care
The work culminated in June 2018, when Sylvan and Mayo leaders celebrated the dedication of the John E. Herman Home and Treatment Facility.
Residents at the John E. Herman Home live in two residential houses, with a mental health services treatment center located in a third building in the middle. Mayo Clinic recruited clinical psychologist Ajeng J. Puspitasari, Ph.D., to lead the program and its associated research.
"We're excited to have this at Mayo Clinic," Dr. Puspitasari says. "We will implement evidence-based treatments as we're building the clinical program simultaneously with the research program. That's unique in the clinical setting."
For Sylvan, seeing the success of his program in his ClearView Communities, and now in a collaborative approach with Mayo Clinic, he knows he is doing what he set out to do. He is helping young people and their families in a way no one could help his son.
Sylvan is proud of this success, but perhaps most gratifying for him have been the responses from family members of patients.
"We get letters from parents all the time telling us what a fantastic job we're doing, what we're doing for their son or daughter. We're very pleased with it," Sylvan says. "I understand what they went through, because I went through the same thing."
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