Dr. Keith Schafer’s visionary leadership, momentous public advocacy to improve services, and his influence on mental health policy and issues made a significant impact on mental health services in Missouri.
Under Dr. Schafer’s leadership, Missouri emerged to become a model system of innovation and effectiveness for its efforts to integrate physical and mental health care, and improve the quality of life for its most vulnerable citizens. The list of initiatives includes: the Partnership for Hope program that provides timely and essential in-home services for persons with developmental disabilities; placing mental health liaisons at community mental health centers to assist law enforcement and hospitals in getting appropriate care for persons with mental illness; Health Homes integrating physical and mental health care; and advocating successfully for the rebuilding of Fulton State Hospital – the oldest psychiatric facility west of the Mississippi River.
Dr. Keith Schafer served as Director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health from 1986 – 1994, and from 2007 – 2015. He epitomizes the definition of “public servant”. Throughout his career, his insight into difficult policy issues, ability to work with diverse stakeholders and unwavering integrity made him Missouri’s most valuable mental health resource.
Under his leadership, the Department was able to bring about system changes that maintained critical programming for persons living with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders. But perhaps his greatest achievement and his lasting legacy is the environment of recovery, dignity and compassion he created for Missouri’s mental health consumers. He established the Missouri Mental Health Foundation to broaden support for mental health care and advocacy; the Mental Health Champions’ Banquet to honor three mental health consumers for their efforts to help others and their communities; and Missouri’s Real Voices-Real Choices Consumer Conference, which is planned and hosted by consumers, drawing nearly 900 individuals annually and serves as a model for other states.
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