OptumHealth Honors “Forgotten” Mental Illness Patients, Recognizes Important Progress in Behavioral Health Care

  • Company provides traveling display to raise awareness and funds for national memorial
  • Spotlights importance of early intervention and effective care
ORLANDO, Fla. — 

OptumHealth Inc. is supporting a national memorial being built to honor people nationwide who died in state psychiatric hospitals and are buried in unnamed graves.

While noting the significant advancements in behavioral health care that today are helping millions find paths to recovery, OptumHealth unveiled a traveling fund-raising display for the memorial and presented a $50,000 donation. The announcement was made at the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare conference.

Construction of The Gardens at Saint Elizabeths: A National Memorial of Recovered Dignity, is slated to begin in 2011 in Washington, D.C. OptumHealth’s traveling display will be made available to national, state and local consumer mental health support organizations who wish to help raise awareness and funds at their locations and events.

“We are proud to support the national memorial because it honors the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and reminds us that today, early intervention and appropriate care can help people with mental illness live healthy and productive lives,” said Andrew Sekel, Ph.D., executive vice president of OptumHealth Public Sector Solutions. “We hope the traveling display will help spread this important message across the country, while raising awareness and funds for a long-overdue memorial.”

It’s estimated that, through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, more than 300,000 people institutionalized with mental illness were buried in unnamed graves when they died. In recent years, thousands of graves and remains have been discovered across the United States, from Georgia to Oregon to Hawaii. Volunteers work every day to restore cemeteries on the grounds of psychiatric hospitals, returning dignity to those who have been forgotten.

The traveling display will provide educational materials and information about how people can get involved. Organizations can reserve the traveling display for their events at www.memorialofrecovereddignity.org. Individuals can also make a donation to the national memorial at the same Web site.

The Gardens at Saint Elizabeths will feature metal markers for all 50 states and Washington, D.C., that list state hospitals where patients are buried, and will include peaceful gardens, reflecting pools and a Weeping Wall. The memorial will be woven into an existing 10-acre cemetery, the resting place of about 4,500 psychiatric patients who died at Saint Elizabeths, including Civil War veterans. The memorial will be operated by people who are themselves recovering from mental illness.

OptumHealth serves more than 5 million public sector members in 38 states with programs that support recovery, resiliency and wellness for people facing behavioral health conditions, chronic illness or complex conditions such as transplants.

About The Gardens at Saint Elizabeths: A National Memorial of Recovered Dignity
The Gardens at Saint Elizabeths: A National Memorial of Recovered Dignity will honor those who lie in unnamed graves at psychiatric hospitals nationwide. The memorial was designed by the University of Georgia’s School of Environmental Design. Construction is slated to begin in 2011.

The memorial is supported by eight mental health and consumer organizations, including: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Mental Health America, National Association of Consumer/Survivor Mental Health Administrators, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, National Alliance on Mental Illness Consumer Council, National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations, National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, and U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association. A Memorial Advisory Council also includes members of the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, Consumer Action Network of D.C., and the Mental Health Empowerment Project.

About OptumHealth
OptumHealth Inc. helps individuals navigate the health care system, finance their health care needs and achieve their health and well-being goals. The company's personalized health advocacy and engagement programs tap a unique combination of capabilities that encompass public sector solutions, care solutions, behavioral solutions, specialty benefits and financial services. Serving nearly 60 million people, OptumHealth is one of the nation's largest health and wellness businesses, and is a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company. More information about OptumHealth can be found at www.optumhealth.com

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OptumHealth Honors “Forgotten” Mental Illness Patients, Recognizes Important Progress in Behavioral Health Care