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UTHealth establishes John S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center to address gaps in mental health care

Written By: Deborah Mann Lake | Updated: April 8, 2021
Photo of Scott Lane, PhD, and Joy Schmitz, PhD, of the Faillace Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UTHealth, are part of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction.

The John S. Dunn Foundation has made a transformative $25 million commitment to The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) to bolster the university’s behavioral health initiatives and address significant gaps in mental health care services in our communities.

In honor of the foundation’s generosity, UTHealth will establish the John S. Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center to support innovative behavioral health research, education, and patient care. The pledge embodies the commitment of UTHealth’s faculty and trainees in the Louis A. Faillace, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth to provide comprehensive care to patients throughout our campus, in addition to UT Physicians clinics, Harris Health outpatient clinics, and Harris Health’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. Together, the Dunn Foundation and UTHealth mental health specialists are working to ensure a comprehensive array of health services are delivered to patients in all phases of care.

“Our behavioral health experts provide the highest levels of care to patients from across our community, and are also on the forefront of developing innovative and personalized treatments for psychiatric and mental health conditions,” said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD, UTHealth president and Alkek-Williams Distinguished Chair. “The generous support of the Dunn Foundation will provide UTHealth with the critical resources needed to realize our shared vision of improving behavioral health in our communities and setting new standards in excellence of care.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of every 5 Americans has a mental illness, and the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that only half of people with mental illnesses receive treatment. Furthermore, cases are on the rise due to some of the necessary health and safety measures taken to stop the spread of COVID-19. A recent CDC report revealed more than 40% of adults reported suffering at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition during the pandemic. 

“With the depth and breadth of expertise, we are well-positioned to lead behavioral health care in Houston and across the state,” said Jair Soares, MD, PhD, the Pat R. Rutherford, Jr. Chair in Psychiatry in the Faillace Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “Our patient-centered programs are designed to break down barriers and provide a continuum of care to help individuals and their families overcome behavioral disorders.” 

Since 1986, the John S. Dunn Foundation has generously supported UTHealth’s efforts to improve the physical and mental health of our communities, including investments that have bolstered research on bipolar disorder and treatment-resistant bipolar depression.

“Mental illness has a significant impact on the physical health and well-being of individuals and families, and it reverberates across our community,” said Charles M. Lusk, III, President, John S. Dunn Foundation. “Our continued partnership with UTHealth will carry on John S. Dunn’s legacy and support a cause that was important to him while improving the lives of countless individuals long into the future. Mental health care, much like any other health care, can result in cures, and we are particularly invested in working with UTHealth to that end.”

The foundation’s most recent gift will:

  • Create the John S. Dunn Foundation Research Fund to advance discoveries in the treatment of behavioral disorders.
  • Establish the John S. Dunn Foundation Education Fund to enhance the academic environment for fellows, residents, and students.
  • Establish the John S. Dunn Lecture Series to bring experts to UTHealth for scientific discussion.
  • Fund a total of 11 named faculty endowments to recruit and retain outstanding talent to the university and the Greater Houston area.

The commitment is part of the university’s first comprehensive campaign, Many Faces. One Mission. The campaign, representing the largest philanthropic effort in UTHealth’s history, aims to raise $500 million to address pressing health challenges such as advancing brain and behavioral health and to secure the institution’s future as a top health science center. Since the campaign’s quiet phase began in 2015, the university’s closest friends have given more than $400 million toward this goal.

“With this gift from the Dunn Foundation, UTHealth can dramatically improve the lives of people suffering from behavioral disorders for decades to come,” Soares said.

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As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.