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Jerry Dincin, 82, mental health expert

Jerry Dinccenter walks with former Governor Jim Thompson. | Provided Photo

Jerry Dincin, center, walks with former Governor Jim Thompson. | Provided Photo

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Updated: April 29, 2013 12:20PM

Jerry Dincin, longtime chief of Thresholds, the state’s biggest, oldest community mental-health agency, died Tuesday at 82.

Though Mr. Dincin was a strong right-to-die advocate, he died naturally, in hospice care in Highland Park, of prostate cancer, according to Thresholds.

Three days before he died, a Minnesota judge dismissed assisted-suicide charges against him and other members of Final Exit Network, a group accused of helping an Apple Valley, Minn. woman end her life in 2007. The group said it does not assist suicide, but provides information and emotional support to critically ill people who want to decide their own destiny.

Mr. Dincin, a native of Brooklyn, headed Thresholds for 40 years. When he took over in 1965, the nonprofit had a staff of four or five people. By the time he retired, in 2002, Thresholds employed 900, and served 6,000 people a year at multiple locations, said Emily Moen, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Under his leadership, it expanded to offer clients help with housing, and educational and vocational counseling. Dincin targeted support for the deaf, mothers, adolescents, seniors and substance abusers, Moen said.

Back then, “it was unheard of that psychiatric patients could even work,” Dincin said. “We started a job program and a housing program, and by the time I left in 2002, we had about 1,000 people living in safe, decent, affordable housing.”

Its patients suffer from major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses. They come from nursing homes, hospitals, psychiatric facilities, jails and homeless shelters. Thresholds assists them in living independently.

The agency’s aim was to prepare them for life on the “outside.” And, it could do it for far less money than a hospital, Dincin said.

“Jerry Dincin made Thresholds what it is today — his vision and leadership created a place that helps persons with mental illness recover and live rich, fulfilling lives,” said Mark Ishaug, CEO of Thresholds.

Mr. Dincin is survived by his second wife, Susanne Streicker, whom he met when she was a social worker at Thresholds; his four children, Laura Piper, Paul Dincin, Maya Dincin and Bruce Dincin; his sister, Zola Schneider, and seven grandchildren.

Contributing: Associated Press

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