Garry Vickar, M.D.: "We believe in this program because we see how well it works." Garry Vickar, M.D., launched the program in 1985.He
recognized that inpatients with schizophrenia and their families could benefit from accurate information about the disorder and up-to-date treatment strategies to combat its symptoms. Vickar is medical director of the STEPS program and chair of psychiatry at Christian Hospital, a 460-bed general hospital in St. Louis.He is also immediate past president of the Eastern Missouri Psychiatric Society and is its representative to the APA Assembly.
"When I began to practice in 1976, families were being bombarded with the message that they were to blame for their relatives' schizophrenia," Vickar
told Psychiatric News
began to hold meetings for his
patients and their families because he
believed "it was important to educate patients and families about the medical model of the illness" in a way that was "less pejorative and guilt provoking for families," he
staff at the hospital finally had the opportunity to educate patients and families on a much larger scale with the advent of the STEPS program in 1985.
In addition, some patients join the STEPS aftercare program, which is extended to former inpatients as well as people with schizophrenia who have never been exposed to the program, Vickar
In the aftercare group, which is offered on Wednesday evenings and is free of charge, patients offer support to one another and are free to address with staff any issues that concern them.
"Some patients have been coming to aftercare for years now," he
said, noting that many patients in the aftercare program develop close and enduring relationships with staff.
Patients who come to the aftercare program often opt to join the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill North Club
chapter, according to Vickar
and Roe, through which they socialize during monthly outings to restaurants, movie theaters, and museums, for instance.
is gratified by the improvements made by many of the program's patients.He
has seen patients, after leaving the program, move on to independent living situations, new friendships, and full-time work."We believe in this program because we see how well it works," he
presented program data at the APA Institute
on Psychiatric Services in Boston in October, his
eighth presentation on the STEPS program at that meeting.
The researchers plan to submit the data for publication this year. Vickar
thinks the program can be replicated in other settings.