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Marvin Weinstein, 77; His Programs Helped Mentally Ill Join Mainstream

October 11, 2006|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Marvin Weinstein, who implemented pioneering psychosocial programs in Los Angeles to help the severely mentally ill lead independent lives, has died. He was 77.

Weinstein, whose innovations included a cookie baking business run by people with psychiatric disorders, died of lung cancer Sept. 8 at his longtime home in West Los Angeles, said his daughter, Judy.

In 1965, he joined the nonprofit mental health agency Portals and helped develop an approach that was forward-thinking for the time: By providing targeted social services, combined with psychiatric rehabilitation, the organization could help the mentally ill become productive members of mainstream society.

"Marv was one of a handful of pioneers who focused on rehabilitating the whole person, not just their mental illness," said Jim Balla, president and chief executive of Portals, which was established in 1955.

During his 36 years at Portals, Weinstein developed a network of programs in Los Angeles to help clients obtain housing and jobs and re-integrate into the community. The organization now serves more than 1,200 people a month.

One of his proudest accomplishments was the 1986 launching of Corporate Cookie, a retail cookie stand that gave clients a way to reenter the job market.

"Some people really need that intermediate step," Weinstein told The Times in 1995. "The better prepared they are for a job, the better chance they'll have of keeping it."

Corporate Cookie expanded to three Los Angeles-area locations and included a cafe but closed in 2001, the same year Weinstein retired as president and chief executive of Portals.

In the 1980s, he became interested in the role that housing can play in stabilizing the lives of the mentally ill who are homeless, colleagues said.

He helped found A Community of Friends, a nonprofit agency that develops affordable housing, mainly for the mentally ill homeless. He served on its board from 1988 through this year.

"He made sure we understood the population we are building for," said Dora Leong Gallo, chief executive of A Community of Friends. "He emphasized the need for on-site supported service."

Each of the 29 affordable-housing buildings that have been completed, mainly in Los Angeles County, include case management offices to provide mental health services and public space to encourage socializing.

Weinstein also was involved in about 10 local, state and national organizations that were dedicated to mental health.

Born and raised in Chicago, he joined the Air Force after high school and served in the Korean War.

At the University of Wisconsin, Weinstein earned a bachelor's degree in sociology and psychology in 1955 and a master's in social work two years later.

He also was a licensed clinical social worker and a licensed marriage and family counselor.

In 1961, he came west to work for the Jewish Big Brother Assn. of Los Angeles County.

"He liked being around people," Judy Weinstein said. "And he did everything big. He was the kind of person who couldn't just order a small cup of coffee, it had to be jumbo. If he found a shirt he liked, he had to buy five."

In addition to his daughter Judy, Weinstein is survived by another daughter, Karen; sisters Ruth Perman and Annette Beezy; and two grandchildren. His marriage to Diane Weinstein ended in divorce after about 20 years.

A memorial will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.


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