Anonymous Donation Secures Future of Laurel House Program

Stamford Advocate 

By Kat Russell, March 23, 2018

STAMFORD — Laurel House has received an anonymous donation of $500,000, which President and CEO Linda Autore said will ensure the future of the nonprofit mental health center’s Thinking Well program.

That donation was celebrated Friday with a re-dedication ceremony during which the Thinking Well Center was named after Harrison Hoffman, a former and beloved Laurel House board member.

“What this anonymous donation really does for us is sustain the program for a number of years to come and ensure that we can continue to offer this program free of charge,” Autore said.

Established about three years ago, Autore said the Thinking Well program couples instructor-led computer-based exercises with therapeutic discussion sessions to help individuals with a mental health diagnosis re-learn or develop skills in working memory, attention, reasoning and problem solving, information processing and verbal and visual learning. Participants also engage in regular progress meetings “to ensure the individual feels they are accomplishing something and making progress toward their goals.”

“The program is designed to help individuals with a mental health diagnosis to re-learn cognitive skills and help them improve their productivity in life, whether it be in school, or obtaining independent living or in a work setting,” she said.

Since its inception, Autore said more than 300 individuals have completed the program, which consists of 90-minute session twice a week for 20 to 30 sessions.

The program utilizes an “evidence-based cognitive remediation program” developed by “thought leaders in neuroscience” to help individuals re-learn or improve their thinking skills, Autore said, “particularly in those who are dealing with the burden of mental health illnesses,” such as schizophrenia, bi-polar or anxiety disorders or traumatic brain illnesses or injuries.

Based on assessment tests, each program is tailored to the individual, Autore said, to address the specific skills or areas that individual needs to develop or improve.

Over the years, Autore said the program shown proven success.

Of 101 participants, data showed 98 percent of participants showed positive functional outcomes such as the ability to perform at their jobs or go to school, and 89 percent exhibited improvement in 4 or more cognitive areas. Additionally, 69 percent showed significant improvement in two or more cognitive areas.

But it’s the human outcomes, more than the statistical data, that Autore said really stands out.

“Individuals who have completed the program feel renewed confidence,” she said. “They feel like they can get back into the workforce or start school, they can read a book and actually concentrate, they can better interact socially and/or live more independently. So, we really can’t better measure success than seeing someone who has completed the program gain the confidence to go out and get a job or pursue something they didn’t have the skills to do before.”