Vincent House: Living With and Past Mental Illness

In May, an article I wrote about Vincent House was the lead story in an online magazine, The Pinellas Reader.

VincentHouseLogoVincent House is a “recovery through work partnership” that helps adults living with mental illness to find their way back from the edge of everyday life and become functioning, contributing members of society again.

What’s even more remarkable is that Vincent House was founded, not by professionals in the mental health field steeped in theories and studies, but by the parents of a young woman who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, parents who were at their wits’ end trying to find a program to help their daughter.

Elliott Steele had a prestigious career with a Tampa hospital. Dianne Steele was a successful veterinary surgeon. When their younger daughter was diagnosed in her second semester of college, they looked everywhere to find a place to help her live with her illness.

This was back in 1993. They discovered that their medical insurance would have paid up to a million dollars for their daughter’s care if she’d been diagnosed with cancer or heart disease. Schizophrenia? There was a lifetime cap of $25,000. It went in a flash.

Dianne Elliott SteeleElliott and Dianne quickly discovered that there were no programs to help the mentally ill to live successfully with their condition. Only institutions that warehoused them, or day programs that simply provided a place to hang out, that monitored their meds and controlled when they could use the bathroom or grab a smoke. Nothing that helped patients retain their dignity. Nothing that helped.

Instead of letting their despair drive their lives, Elliott and Dianne left their careers and embarked on a journey to make a real difference, for their own daughter and for others like her.

They learned to work with organizations like NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. And they connected with grass roots organizations, groups comprising other families facing the same challenges. Finally, they learned about an organization that used simple self-respect to create a workable model that the Steeles wanted to follow.

The result is Vincent House/Van Gogh’s Palette, a program that provides socialization, job training and job placement to more than 200 members a year. Last year, Vincent House placed over 95 members in jobs that paid them over half a million dollars in taxable salaries.

Please read about it here.


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About Billie Noakes

The writer you want for crisp, clean copy.
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2 Responses to Vincent House: Living With and Past Mental Illness

  1. Mitchell says:

    Hello Billie:
    Great article, but your Pinellas Reader link is busted. Sad that PR site is gone. I was the original programmer.

    Keep writing!

  2. Thanks, Mitchell. Yes, I discovered that a little bit ago when I wanted to send someone else to read the article. Great job on Don’s website! Sorry it’s gone …

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