Yale Psychiatry Mourns the Loss of Casey Ribicoff

09/14/2011: The Department of Psychiatry of the Yale School of Medicine mourns the passing of Casey Ribicoff, beloved widow of Senator Abraham A. Ribicoff. The Ribicoffs figure prominently in the history of Yale's Psychiatry Department through the establishment of the Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC), an enduring and historic partnership between the State of Connecticut and Yale University in 1966. For over half a century, Senator and Casey Ribicoff have served as advisors to and collaborators with the Department.

CMHC, a first-of-its-kind urban community health center that serves and supports over 5,000 individuals with serious mental illnesses and addictions every year, arose from the collaboration between then Governor Ribicoff and then Psychiatry Department Chair Fritz Redlich. The Center ultimately became home to the Abraham Ribicoff Research Facilities, laboratories that have furthered our understanding and treatment of schizophrenia, depression, mania, development disorders, anxiety, stress, and drug and alcohol addiction for three decades.

Dr. Michael Sernyak, Yale Professor of Psychiatry and Director of CMHC, stressed the important synergies made possible by the Ribicoff Research Facilities, "Having the complete spectrum of psychiatric research 'under one roof' alongside an active clinical program provides a unique opportunity for collaboration within our Department. This configuration is as visionary today as it was when then Governor Ribicoff made it a reality." Due in large part to this integration, CMHC has emerged as one of the world's great clinical, training, and research institutions in psychiatry.

On the Department's Advisory Council, created by former Chair Dr. Benjamin Bunney in the late 1980's, the insight and support of both Senator and Casey Ribicoff would prove invaluable.

"I was honored and privileged to have known and worked alongside Abraham and Casey Ribicoff." Dr. Bunney continued, "I remember how nervous I was to ask Senator Ribicoff to join the Department's Advisory Council, assuming he would be much too busy. Not only did he accept, he attended and was actively engaged in nearly every meeting. After the Senator passed away in 1998, his widow Casey Ribicoff joined the Council. In some of our most difficult hours, her advocacy made the difference."

Dr. John Krystal, Yale Psychiatry Department Chair, remembered the Ribicoffs at those meetings as well. "Although just a new faculty member at the time, I attended a few advisory meetings in the late 1980's and early 1990's where I had the opportunity to meet Senator and Casey Ribicoff. I remember one meeting, in particular, where we were stymied about how to advance a national initiative on brain research. The Senator fiddled with a pair of black glasses and then incisively told us who to call and what to say, essentially how to get the job done."

The Department owes a debt of gratitude to the longstanding dedication, support, and friendship of the Ribicoffs. The vision of Senator Ribicoff was integral to creating the framework for Yale to emerge as one of the leading Departments of Psychiatry in the world, enabling the Department to help countless people suffering the burdens of mental illness and addiction.

For more information:

New York Times: Casey Ribicoff, Senator’s Widow and a Style Leader, Dies at 88