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Psychiatrist honored for work in children's mental health

June 22, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN

marlob@herald-mail.com

On June 11 in Washington, D.C., Dr. Ira Lourie was flanked by family and friends as he accepted the 2005 Tipper Gore Remember the Children award, presented by the National Mental Health Association.

"When I learned of this, I felt very blessed and honored," said Lourie, a child psychiatrist who has worked with and for troubled children since the early 1970s. Lourie lives in Hagerstown.

Lourie's wife, Carrol Springer Lourie, said the award ceremony in Washington was very special.

"Ira got a little choked up," she said.

Lourie said he kept quiet about the award when he first heard of it.

"I'm a convener ... a collaborator," he said. "I usually don't take credit for what I do."

What Lourie has done for more than 30 years is pave the way for children to receive appropriate mental health services in all 50 states. The National Mental Health Association pointed to Lourie's outstanding work focusing on addressing the spectrum of mental and emotional disorders that confront American children and adolescents.

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To that aim, Lourie, 64, began his efforts for youth in the 1970s, shortly after completing his undergraduate and medical school education at George Washington University, and his internship and residency in psychiatry in California and Massachusetts.

Beginning with a stint at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Lourie created a program to meet the needs of children with severe emotional disturbances.

"I saw how few mental health services were available for children, a vastly underserved population," he said.

At the same time, Lourie said there was a large program for clinically mentally ill adults.

"Community support programs grew out of this - from medical to rehabilitation, from hospitals to community-based programs," he said.

One of the highlights of Lourie's efforts came when he started a federally funded program for children with severe emotional disturbances in all 50 states.

"We gave out grants of about $100,000 each, asking the states to create an agency for dealing with these kids," Lourie said.

The goal, which was to have a mental-health program for children in each state, was achieved in seven years, Lourie said.

"We have involved parents in the process, and out of this parent movement we pulled together a federation of families for child mental health."

In Lourie's case, the passion to serve youth has a hereditary component. His father, Dr. Reginald Lourie, was head of child psychiatry at Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C.

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