Joel T. Braslow M.D., Ph.D.

Frances M. O’Malley Chair in Neuroscience History
Associate Professor
Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences
NPI Health Services Research Center
University of California, Los Angeles
Email: Discipline: Psychiatry, History, Health Services Research

Investigator Award
From the Curative Asylum to the Broken System: Understanding Hopes and Realities in Mental Health System Transformation
Award Year: 2009 Based on concepts of personal strength and empowerment, the Recovery Movement has become the major driving force of American mental health policy, and like similar efforts over the last two hundred years, recovery-oriented transformation promises dramatic hope for the care, treatment, and lives of those with severe mental illness. For their Investigator Award project, Joel T. Braslow, M.D., Ph.D., Frances M. O'Malley Chair in Neuroscience History at the University of California, Los Angeles, and John S. Brekke, Ph.D., Frances Larson Professor of Social Work and Associate Dean of Research at the University of Southern California, focus on the California Mental Health Services Act, a massive mental health policy endeavor and the largest effort to date aimed at a statewide recovery-oriented transformation. The investigators will describe the impact of California's mental health reform initiative in Los Angeles County and analyze how state and county policies, clinician practices, and cultural values shape treatment of mental illness. Their project, From the Curative Asylum to the Broken System: Understanding Hopes and Realities in Mental Health System Transformation, will also evaluate how networks of clinics, which provide integrated medical and social services and move patients from higher to lower levels of care as they recover, impact patients' outcomes and experiences. Drs. Braslow and Brekke will integrate the L.A. County experience with lessons learned from the past to examine whether the Recovery Movement provides a sound basis for viable mental health policy or whether alternative approaches hold promise for better meeting the complex needs of people with chronic mental illness. Project findings will help inform policy changes under consideration by states and counties throughout the country.


Joel Braslow is a professor in the UCLA department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and department of history. Trained as a historian and psychiatrist, his work examines the social, cultural, historical, and scientific context of treatment practices for severe mental illness. His research has ranged from early twentieth-century American psychiatric practices (Mental Ills and Bodily Cures) to contemporary policy and care for severe mental illness. Dr. Braslow is the director of Neuroscience History Archives at UCLA's Brain Research Institute and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Center for the Study of Neuropsychopharmacology at UCLA. Dr. Braslow, along with Dr. John Brekke, is the principal investigator of a National Institute of Mental Health study titled ?California MHS Act: Impact on Practice & Organizational Culture in Public Clinics. Employing insights from this study, Drs. Braslow and Brekke will be examining the broader implications of this Act.