Greden named Health Care Hero; Prechter receives honorable mention

Depression Center Executive Director John Greden, M.D., was named a winner in the 10th annual Crain’s Detroit Business “Health Care Hero” awards.








U-M center director raises awareness of depression

A pioneer in the creation of a national network of academic depression centers in 2007, John Greden, M.D., executive director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center, always has led by example.

In 2001, Greden, a psychiatrist, persuaded U-M to fund the depression center. He also is the founding chairman of the National Network of Depression Centers, which includes 21 other academic depression centers.

In 2009, Greden wrote a white paper that pointed out serious gaps in psychiatric care. That led to bipartisan support in early 2010 for a federal initiative to fund depression centers of excellence.

But Greden said U-M will have to scale down its plans to work with primary care providers in Michigan on depression care because $5 million in federal funding expected this year has been canceled due to the political battle in Washington over the federal budget deficit.

While the Affordable Care Act authorized $1.2 billion in funding for 30 depression centers nationally over the next 10 years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not fund the program.

“It is not promising that it will be funded in the near future,” Greden said. “We will continue our pursuit of federal support but in the meantime will look for other funding sources to start our primary care projects on a smaller scale.”


As the nation’s second most costly chronic disease, depression afflicts one in five people in Michigan, Greden said. In Michigan, 1,000 people commit suicide each year. Most suicide is attributable to depression, he said.

Over the past several years, U-M’s depression center, which treats around 3,000-5,000 people annually, has been developing strategies to work with primary care providers to help their patients deal with depression or bipolar disease, Greden said.

Under the original plan, Greden said, U-M would have created an outreach strategy to develop provider networks and satellite facilities to train a variety of primary care providers, including physicians and nurses.

“We will start out in Flint and Hillsdale and work with pediatricians in northern Michigan using telemedicine,” he said.

Greden is working on two projects that could increase the depression center’s revenue. One is working with the National Football League Players Association and retired players who need mental health evaluations. The other is with the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Michigan National Guard for returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We have Eric Hipple, the retired Detroit Lions quarterback, working with us with the NFL players association and with the military,” Greden said.

So far, the center has evaluated five former NFL players, he said.

“Michigan has 10,000 National Guard veterans, many with multiple deployments. There is a real need for coordinated mental health care.”

Greden also is preparing a proposal to celebrate the center’s 10th anniversary starting in November. A number of special events will be planned over the next year, he said.

In its 10 years, the center has raised $47 million in development funds. Research funding has doubled over the past six years to $40 million for the 22-center network, he said.

“We have done well, but we have much more to do,” Greden said.

By Jay Green, Crain’s Detroit Business

Waltraud “Wally” Prechter, president and founder of the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center, received an honorable mention from Crain’s in the Trustee category:

Seeking cures for adult bipolar disorder

Adults with bipolar disorder suffer from chemical imbalances in the brain marked by significant changes in mood, thought, energy and behavior. Their moods can alternate between mania and depression, lasting for hours or months.

But only 40 percent of those suffering from bipolar disorder can be helped with medication or psychotherapy.

Waltraud “Wally” Prechter, president and founder of the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center in Ann Arbor helped begin a study that follows more than 700 participants over 10 years to better understand the illness over time. Prechter chairs the fund’s advisory board.

The center also has collected 1,500 genetic samples from those with bipolar disorder. U-M is collaborating with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., Cornell University in Ithica, N.Y., and Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pa., to study the DNA samples. The samples are stored in a genetic repository, and Prechter said they are compared to genetic samples from those who do not have bipolar disorder to determine how to recognize the disease at a cellular level and how the disease works.

“There’s very little research out there, and we need to decipher the genetics of people who have the illness to understand how it’s caused and how to cure it,” Prechter said. “It’s a tremendously insidious disease, deadly in nature.”

Prechter began the fund in 2001 to help find cures for bipolar disorder after her husband, Heinz Prechter, former chairman and CEO of ASC Inc., committed suicide after battling bipolar disorder for most of his adult life.

The illness affects more than 5.7 million adult Americans, according to the fund’s website, and Wally Prechter has helped raise more than $10 million from private donations for the fund, which have been leveraged to obtain more than $10 million from federal agencies for ongoing projects.

Prechter also sits on the board for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the advisory board for the National Depression Center, and the behavioral health board for Henry Ford Health SystemShe also is working on a documentary on bipolar disorder and an exhibit on depression at the Detroit Science Center.

“My life was pushed in this direction, and I believe it needs to be done,” she said. “We’re not done, but we’re very hopeful and we’re on the right track.”

By Ellen Mitchell, Crain’s Detroit Business