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Sozosei Foundation Aims to Set a New Course for Decriminalizing and Treating Mental Illness in America

Princeton, NEW JERSEY (October 21, 2020) – The Sozosei Foundation, a new philanthropy, has been launched to address the over-incarceration of people with mental illness and is convening an inaugural summit December 14-16 on this topic. Sozosei will also lead corporate social responsibility activities focused on disaster relief and local philanthropy, which will be centered on equity and sustainability. The Foundation will announce additional health-related program areas in 2021. The Sozosei Foundation has received its initial funding from Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc.  “The Sozosei Foundation is committed to ensuring that people living with mental illness have access to community care, so no one has to receive their first diagnosis or treatment within the justice system,” said Dr. William H. Carson, Chairman of the Board of the Sozosei Foundation and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Development & Commercialization, Inc. “To help kick-off our efforts in realizing this mission, we are convening an inaugural virtual summit December 14-16 to spark creativity, innovation and collaboration among advocates and reformers. We are looking forward to being a pivotal partner in driving the decriminalization of mental health reform we know desperately needs to occur.”  Mental illness remains a significant – and growing – public health issue. In 2018, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experienced mental illness, and yet of those diagnosed, only 43% received treatment.[i] The COVID-19 pandemic continues to increase the number of people experiencing mental illness.[ii] The challenges only become more complex when it comes to people in jails and prisons. Forty-four percent of people in jail have a history of a mental health problems; nearly a quarter are in a state of serious psychological distress at the time of their incarceration.[iii] The Sozosei Foundation has hired Melissa Beck to serve as its first Executive Director. She is responsible for starting up the philanthropy and laying the groundwork for its future success in   decriminalizing mental illness and driving equity and sustainability. Ms. Beck brings to the Foundation an extensive background working at the intersection of race, justice, health, and policy. Before joining Sozosei, Ms. Beck served as the Executive Director of The Educational Foundation of America (EFA), where she crafted and led EFA’s grantmaking strategy. “We are seeking to create deep and systematic reform that will eliminate the use of the U.S. justice system as a means of diagnosing and treating mental illness,” said Ms. Beck. “We seek to support and catalyze ideas and solutions to ensure access to treatment and support that will create stronger and healthier communities for all.” ABOUT THE SOZOSEI FOUNDATION The Sozosei Foundation is a U.S.-based, private charitable foundation funded by Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. As its inaugural program area, Sozosei will address the over-incarceration of people with mental illness. The Foundation will announce other health-related program areas in 2021. Sozosei will also lead corporate social responsibility activities focused on disaster relief and local philanthropy, centered on equity and sustainability. [i] https://www.nami.org/mhstats [ii] https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/ [iii] https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/imhprpji1112pr.cfm