A Brief History of the Vermont Soteria Project

Soteria Vermont is a project of the Vermont state government, which seeks to be a leader in mental healthcare. When Hurricane Irene washed away Vermont’s state mental hospital, Vermont’s government chose to replace it with a network of smaller, community-based and alternative approaches to mental health care. Citizens of Vermont are legally entitled to alternatives to psychiatric medication; Soteria Vermont will be the second replication in the  United States (after Alaska’s) of Loren Mosher’s Soteria project which demonstrated in the 1970’s the efficacy of housing people experiencing first psychotic breaks with sympathetic non-professionals as housemates, in the style of R.D. Laing’s Kingsley Hall. The original Soteria was dedicated to using little or no psychiatric medication, and to using that only in the short term to stabilize a crisis. Repeated analyses of its records show extremely robust and long-lasting recovery from even the most extreme psychotic states.

Here, Steven Morgan, the project’s director, gives a short history of the project’s origins. Beginning this fall, Steven will be seeking a site for the house and creating a training program for the staff with the goal of opening the house’s doors in the fall of 2013. Vermont has dedicated $1 million per year to the project.

Mad in America will be following the project, through video interviews and documentaries, as well as Steven’s blogs (when his schedule permits).

4 COMMENTS

  1. This is great. I myself experienced a place very similar to Soteria (the Vancouver Emotional Emergency Center) that was a tremendous help to me. But more importantly, I think Soteria Houses in general are a real challenge to the standard mental illness system, as they mean people who might otherwise be turned into lifelong “mental cases” get actual help, and move on with their lives. The fact that Vermont actually portrays this as part of a different paradigm than locking people away is fantastic.

    I can’t find any email address to communicate with Stephen. If you’re reading this, Stephen, could you put us in touch?

  2. Huge congratulations to Steven and all who have made this historic Soteria project possible!

    It is so significant as Ted mentions, because it means people will get what they need when they have their first or early madness experience. They will get a heart centered environment where they can go through their often weeks long process without medication. They will be able to come though it and become- “Weller than wel1” as Dr. Menninger of the Menninger clinic famously said.

    Abundant research shows that when that happens, almost 70% of people do not end up in the mental health system afterwards- and it proves that madness is not what bio-psychiatry says it is- a genetically determined brain disorder that inflicts irreparable brain damage every minute someone is mad.

    As the consumer/survivor movement embraces and supports Soteria Vermont’s claim that madness is instead a potentially transformative, purposive, developmental and natural process of growth- as it is now believed to be at Open Dialog Finland, Soteria Alaska, Windhorse- and was at Soteria San Jose, Diabasis, I-Ward, Burch House, Kingsley Hall- then we will have taken a giant step towards seeing that such services are someday available to everyone who needs them.

    Because as it is right now, almost everyone who is in need of such a medication free madness sanctuary for several weeks during their first or early experiences of madness, get the medical model response of a DSM Axis 1 diagnosis of a major psychotic disorder, that comes with a stigmatizing and grim prognosis for the rest of their lives, and are placed on a locked ward with medications and restraints.

    Thank you Steven and all in Vermont for helping turn the tide!

  3. Do they have community commitment forced drugging laws in Vermont?

    What will the psychiatrist who is being paid over 300 grand of the 1 million dollar budget be doing at this soteria house?

    When someone becomes violent, will they be treated like an ordinary criminal and the cops called, or a brain diseased criminal and sent to the locked ward?

    I say this, not to diminish this great success of funding and the promise it holds. I think it is great, but I have questions.

    I would also point out, that there is no way I could work with legislators and lobby for this like Steven has, he’s a calmer person than I am. If faced with a legislator, I want to know why they support violent and cruel forced biopsychiatry laws, and I find it hard to play nice.