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How Kalamazoo can address the shortage of psychiatrists - and make a name for itself in the process

Susan Brown.jpg
Gracie Smith
MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette
Susan Brown poses for a portrait with her dog Oscar on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, at her home on Gull Lake near Richland.

This story is part of the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative's Mental Wellness Project

In 2006, Susan Brown lost a close friend to suicide. Another friend died the same way in 2011.

The two incidents left her reeling. Both men were highly accomplished, with plenty of resources at their disposal. If even people in that position could succumb to mental illness, what did that say about the status of mental-health care?

Note: Original story from MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette

“It was such a shock to all of us to have a contemporary” die that way, said Brown, a longtime Kalamazoo resident and wife of Bob Brown, founder of the Treystar commercial real estate firm. “How did this happen?”

For the past decade, Brown -- who is now 80 -- has channeled her grief into action, rallying friends to raise money and researching how to improve access to mental-health services.

Her efforts led to the formation of the Kalamazoo Collaborative Care Program, which provides social workers and other mental-health expertise to help primary-care physicians treat patients with behavioral health issues.

Now Brown wants to take her efforts to the next level. The vision: Creating a Kalamazoo psychiatric clinic modeled after the University of Michigan Depression Center, a place that would combine high-quality care with cutting-edge research and education on mental health.

This story is part of the Mental Wellness Project, a solutions-oriented journalism initiative covering mental health issues in southwest Michigan, created by the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative. SWMJC is a group of 12 regional organizations dedicated to strengthening local journalism. For more info visit