Elderly Georgians suffering from depression will continue to benefit from the generosity of the late J.B. Fuqua through a $3 million gift to Emory University that will help expand treatment in underserved areas.
Since 1999, Emory's Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression has carried out Mr. Fuqua's vision of reaching disadvantaged elderly and reducing the stigma of depression through partnerships with elder care organizations across Georgia.
Mr. Fuqua, who died in April 2006, was an entrepreneur who built a multimillion-dollar business empire that included television and radio stations and nearly two dozen other companies. In his later years, he became well known as a philanthropist, having donated more than $100 million to education, health care and cultural causes.
The latest gift from the Fuqua estate creates the J.B. Fuqua Fund, which will support the Center's ongoing effort to expand psychiatric care to older adults in rural and medically underserved regions of Georgia. The center accomplishes this through telemedicine and collaboration with state and private organizations such as the Georgia Division of Aging, Atlanta and Georgia's Area Agencies on Aging, and the Georgia Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.
"These agencies are on the front lines of reaching these patients, and Mr. Fuqua was always very interested in how many lives would be impacted and how many people would be treated through his support," says William M. McDonald, MD, director of the Fuqua Center and holder of the J.B. Fuqua Chair in Late-Life Depression in the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
Through the Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Aging's Community Care Service program, the Center has trained care managers how to detect depression and monitor treatment effectiveness. These providers care for more than 20,000 frail, nursing home-eligible seniors who choose to remain in their homes. This work will support a National Institutes of Health grant proposal the Center is developing to track gaps in mental health resources, treatment effectiveness, and to develop culturally competent services for older adults across Georgia.
The Fuqua Center is unique in offering a comprehensive continuum of geriatric psychiatry services to its patients through strong community partnerships.
The Center, located at Wesley Woods Center, provides services including preventive care, chronic disease management, peer support, psychotherapy and community-based clinics that provide comprehensive geriatric psychiatry evaluations and medication management. These partnerships bring treatment to older adults in their communities at senior centers and residential facilities or via telemedicine.
"This program is of national significance because we build on the strengths of researchers and expert clinicians and add a strong community education and outreach program to reach the underserved," says Dr. McDonald. "As we move forward, we will focus on collaborating with rural primary care providers in partnership with the National Center for Primary Care at Morehouse School of Medicine to make geriatric psychiatry services available in underserved areas. We will also actively participate in reforming public policy, which currently creates barriers to providing older adults with needed services."
Clinical depression affects as many as 2 million of the nation's 35 million people aged 65 or above, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. An additional 5 million seniors may suffer from depressive symptoms that interfere with their lives and put them at risk for developing major depression.
Thomas J. Lawley, MD, dean of the Emory University School o f Medicine, says the Fuqua estate's continued generosity is helping meet a critical need for psychiatric care in a traditionally underserved age group.
"J.B. Fuqua's legacy is creating a center that is improving older adults' access to assessment and treatment of late-life depression," says Dr. Lawley. "The Fuqua Center is becoming a model program for mental health providers throughout the nation."
This gift brings J.B. Fuqua's total Emory contributions to $8 million, including gifts to help found the Fuqua Center, to fund initiatives in awareness and treatment of depression in older adults and to endow the J.B. Fuqua Chair in Late-Life Depression.
His son, J. Rex Fuqua, president and CEO of Atlanta-based Fuqua Capital Corporation, presented the bequest to Emory.
"My father was concerned that the Fuqua Center not only serve people in Atlanta, but extend its reach around the state to help treat as many people as possible," Rex Fuqua says. "This gift will further enhance the existing programs at the Fuqua Center that focus on educating others about depression in late life and providing effective treatments for those afflicted."
J.B. Fuqua's legacy of philanthropy reflected his belief in the importance of contributing to the well-being of others. This was a "core family value" he learned while growing up, Rex Fuqua adds. Emory was the beneficiary of that lesson in December 2006 when Rex Fuqua gave $2 million to endow The J. Rex Fuqua Chair in Child Psychiatry in the Emory Childhood and Adolescent Mood Disorders Program.