Gina Nikkel, Ph.D. Named as the First Executive Director of the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care

From: CooperRiis News and Events, July 5, 2011

The Foundation is a new national community foundation for mental health recovery that seeks to turn the rising tide of chronicity and premature death through the power of philanthropy and the shared work of scientists, users and providers of mental health services and their families. The Goal: to find and promote the best ways to achieve long-term recovery and to help people with mental health challenges to thrive.

The Foundation was established in response to nationwide interest in Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, and the desire to examine existing research, create support for new innovative research and programs, and sponsor symposia to build a new paradigm of care that focuses on long-term recovery and wellness. Strong evidence demonstrates that our 25-year long over-reliance on a purely medical model has not advanced mental health recovery. The number of individuals diagnosed with “chronic mental illness”, disabling enough to place them on the Social Security roles has tripled since 1987.

Dr. Nikkel has several decades of experience as a mental health therapist, an elected public official, and for the past 11 years as the Executive Director of the Association of Oregon Community Mental Health Programs. Her doctorate is in Education with an emphasis in social public policy and leadership from the University of Oregon. She brings a broad background and expertise in the development of innovative and evidence-based community mental health and addictions programs.

The Foundation has already established a Scientific Advisory Committee to guide activities of mental health reform and Dr. Nikkel’s direct involvement in coordinating this and other initiatives will be of critical importance in changing treatment practices throughout the United States as well as abroad.

Foundation Board member, philanthropist, and co-founder of the CooperRiis Healing Communities Donald R. Cooper, who has given and raised more than $25 million for improved mental health care says, “The selection of Dr. Nikkel as our inaugural Executive Director bodes well for the Foundation’s success. She is helping to lead an amazing group of Board and Scientific Committee members that should attract the attention and confidence of other philanthropists in the nation who will help us to make great strides in achieving our mission.”

Board Chairman and President Virgil Stucker says, “Imagine a better world for individuals and families whose lives have been impeded by mental illness. In the face of despair and diminishing public resources, the Foundation is positioned to use creative philanthropy effectively to help hundreds of thousands in the coming years. Dr. Nikkel’s tenacity, intelligence and unwillingness to accept anything but success will help the Foundation to become the New Mainstream in Mental Health Care.”

Dr. Nikkel can be reached at

Members of the Scientific Advisory Committee are:
Bill Anthony, Ph.D.
Jack Bonner, MD
Paula Caplan, Ph.D
Lee Combrinck-Graham, MD
Don Cooper, Board Representative
Bob Drake, MD
Lisa Dixon, MD, Board Representative
John Gilmore, MD, Board Representative
Courtney Harding, MD
David Healy, MD, Board Representative
Matt Miller, Ph.D.
Bob Nikkel, MSW, Board Representative
Gina Nikkel, Ph.D, Board Representative through July 31st.
Judith Pentz, MD.
David Pollack, MD
Louisa Putnam, Board Representative
Tony Stanton, MD
Virgil Stucker, Board Representative
Ken Thompson, MD
Sharon Young, Ph.D.


Virgil Stucker, Chairman and President
Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care

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