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The motivation of institutions to support one another in their quest for progress and innovation in health care, always taking into account the local social and political context, is at the origin of the Asklepios Foundation.

Contacts between Greek and Dutch mental health services

The idea to support the Greek movement in its efforts to develop social psychiatry arose through personal contacts in a European network, called CEFEC. This network primarily aimed to advance the cause of work rehabilitation and active participation of clients with enduring and severe mental health problems. At the time the Greek society for social psychiatry and mental health care was at the forefront of this movement. In 1993 RIAGG Veluwe Vallei in Ede decided to set up a collaboration with the Greek Society. The main emphasis was on mutual support. In that very year both organisations found out that the European Social Fund might partly subsidize their work rehabilitation programmes. Both partners swiftly submitted their application. Subsequently, exchanges were organized to share know-how about effective methods to bring care to a client’s own region, city or village.


In 1995 the management of the Dutch Organisation for Community Mental Health Care not only decided to support the initiative but also to get actively involved in promoting community care in Greece. They did this by providing publicity and talking to the Greek government. Its Chairman, for instance, was interviewed by the Greek television. As time went by, it was felt that the involvement of more Dutch organisations was required. In the beginning, this meant that health care organisations in the Arnhem, Gelderland regions, the Utrechtse Valleigebied, the RIGG Arnhem and the Veluwe Vallei committed themselves. At the same time, both governments in Greece and Holland got really interested. In October 1997 the Dutch minister E. Borst wrote a letter to her Greek colleague K. Geitonas with a suggestion to establish a bi-national association. This would give Greek and Dutch organisations a platform to exchange know-how and strive to improve the quality of their services for mental patients with enduring and severe mental health problems. Geitonas liked the idea. He emphasised in his letter in December 1997 the need for assistance in training his professionals and the urgency to look for financial support within the European Union.

Establishment of the foundation in 1998

Regional and national developments in 1998 meant that the statures of the RIGG Arnhem en Veluwe Vallei Foundation were changed. The Askepios Foundation was born. The (limited) assets of the former were transferred to the new foundation. The initial members of the board were the Greek society for social psychiatry and mental health care, the new federation Geestelijke Gezondheidszorg (GGZ) Holland, the Symfora group, the Gelderse Roos, the RIAGG Veluwe Vallei, the RIBW Arnhem and Veluwe Vallei. In the beginning the foundation mainly focused on exchange visits and the acquisition of European subsidies (Leonardo da Vinci). Offering support to the national governments soon paid off. In 2000 the RIBW stopped its involvement, and so did GGZ Nederland and the Gelderse Roos in 2003 and Symfora in 2010.

Other countries join

OPZ Geel (Public Psychiatric Hospital, Belgium) joined in 2002 and the Dutch organisation Cordaan became a member in 2004. The former is particularly well known for its psychiatric foster programme The latter specialises in care for the elderly, clients with a mental disability and clients with enduring and severe mental illnesses. In 2005 Tees and North East Yorkshire NHS Trust, en Newcastle, North Tyneside & Northumberland Mental Health NHS Trust (UK) joined. Both organisations offer a wide range of services in the area of mental health care. The last to become a member were Solandet Sykehus from Norway and Mental Health Matters, based in the UK. The latter is in charge of innovation within the National Health Trusts and offers services on a consultancy basis. The present-day foundation is a lot wider in its scope since it doesn’t exclusively focus on mental health care anymore. Having members from 5 different countries, it is now a truly European foundation.

The membership of more and more European countries and the inclusion of other target groups and sectors resulted in the need to change the statures of the foundation yet again. In September 2007 the new statures were passed. The international character therewith was established, as was the fact that different sectors in health care are within the foundation’s remit.

Congresses in 2006 and 2011

In 2006 Asklepios organised its first congress, in Athens. The congress discussed what is at the heart of this foundation, i.e. evolving towards true community mental health care with the emphasis on client participation in normal, regular social systems. The main theme was social inclusion of clients in a European context.

The second congress was organised in 2011 in Amsterdam, with the title "Does Europe Care?", with important issues related to migration of health personnel and delivery of care within the different countries of Europe.

Recent developments

Support program for Greece

Since the economic crisis in Greece the health care in that country is under pressure. Especially the Mental Health care has to cope with many problems. The development of Social psychiatry has stopped and there is a great risk that the results that were achieved in the last decades would be undone.

To show its commitment with Greece and the Greek people, Asklepios organises a support program for its Greek member, the Society of Social Psychiatry and Mental Health. This program started in Spring 2012 with a support meeting in Athens, and is still continuing. In November 2012 a second support meeting was organised and during that meeting the creation of an advisory committee was proposed. That committee should be a platform for financial and mental health structures so members of it have to represent a mixture of economists, mental health professionals, managers, representatives of government and politicians. In the meantime this advisory committee is installed.

Furthermore consultation of the Task Force for Greece from the European Union and the Dutch ambassador in Athens has taken place.

In November 2013, the day before the international board meeting of Asklepios in Athens, a kick off meeting on Management Development will take place. During this meeting a Dutch and Norwegian CEO will bring over concrete ideas of support in strategic and management developments and give advice for the policy for the next 10 years.

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