Partners for Excellence in Psychiatry (PEP): A Program that Touched a Nation

January 2009

After six years, the Partners for Excellence in Psychiatry (PEP) National Training and Consultation Program has closed its doors. This unique behavioral health care partnership, spanning 47 states, has pioneered a “complete wellness” (mind/body/spirit) approach. It leaves a legacy of over 800 behavioral health care organizations and 3,700 professionals to continue its mission of integrating physical health care and well-being into mental health treatment.

In 2002, the PEP Program was launched out of a novel university-pharmaceutical company collaboration between the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-University Behavioral HealthCare and Eli Lilly and Company. The program’s mission was to raise the standard of care for people living with serious illnesses. A primary objective of the program was to increase awareness about the shortened life span of consumers of mental health services and to inspire and assist organizations in fostering wellness and recovery programming.

The PEP Program operated from a philosophy that training alone is not enough to help transform systems of care and that organizations could take “small steps” to implement change. Psychoeducational tools, including Solutions for Wellness and Team Solutions were provided to organizations to help them create a “complete wellness” program culture. A follow-up consultation component supported the program’s high initial implementation success (over 95% of trained organizations reported implementing program materials within 2 months). Additionally, partnering organizations have shared countless examples of major programmatic shifts as a result of the PEP Program, such as restructuring intake processes to address individualized recovery goals and assess physical health issues; adding wellness assessment measures including body mass index, waist circumference and tobacco use; to converting building space into rooms that promote psychoeducation, physical activity, and other wellness activities; and implementing quality improvement initiatives to measure outcomes.

The PEP Program has received local, national, and international recognition. To name a few, it has been featured in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Psychiatric News, Mental Health Weekly and Behavioral Healthcare Tomorrow, and has received several awards including the Annapolis Coalition Award for Educational Innovation. In 2004 and 2005, actress Linda Hamilton partnered with UMDNJ and launched a “Complete Wellness” campaign that reached over 90 million people through local and national news stations and television shows including “The View,” “Larry King Live” and “Oprah.”

Some experts say that it may take a generation to transform the current behavioral health system of care to one that integrates mental and physical health and well-being. The 800+ organizations that have joined the PEP Program Partnership are well on their way. While many programs come and go, the PEP Program will leave a lasting impact on the lives of people living with serious mental illnesses, empowering them to optimize their overall health and reach their full potential.