Alumni Profile

Vivian Barnett Brown '66

Prototypical Social Worker The annals of social work are filled with the pioneering deeds of women whose every moment was spent fighting for the forgotten – Jane Addams, Dorothea Dix, even legendary USC School of Social Work dean Arlien Johnson.

meet Vivian Barnett Brown Ph.D. ’66, who is putting into practice a USC tradition of service to the community.
And through Prototypes, the non-profit organization she founded in 1986, women and their children are the beneficiaries. With a $6 million budget and 150 staff members, the Culver City-based center serves over 10,000 high-risk women and their families each year, providing substance abuse treatment and prevention programs, AIDS outreach and services, and job training.
Brown’s commitment to helping the disadvantaged began after she received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the USC School of Social Work. During her internships, she “realized how many problems there were on the streets and how few resources there were for people who couldn’t afford to pay, who wanted to be helped immediately, and who needed it.”
After a 22-year career at Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health, Brown decided to gamble. Taking out an equity loan on her house, she founded Prototypes. Recalling that decision of 11 years ago, Brown says, “Some people say, ‘How could you do that?’ If you’re really going to start an agency that’s going to meet community needs, you do it.”

UNTIL RECENTLY, MANY psychologists shunned work with the hard-to-serve population of chronically mentally ill people who have severe substance-abuse disorders. Now colleagues in the field are influenced by Brown’s cutting-edge work: seeking to help multiply diagnosed individuals in an integrated setting, “so they don’t have to go from pillar to post to find treatments for each of their problems,” she says.
Brown’s ideas and commitment have distinguished her as a national leader in community mental health. In addition to receiving numerous awards, she has been a featured interview on “The News House with Jim Lehrer,” discussing Prototypes as a model substance abuse treatment program. And in 1995 she was part of a panel that addressed Congress at the Healthy Women 2000 Conference, where she talked about the harmful impact budget cuts would have on mental health programs.
Her work, political battles included, isn’t easy, but Brown remains passionate. Her problem-laden clients “are the people I really love working with,” she says. “They are survivors.”

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Vivian Barnett Brown '66

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