Sunday, October 14, 2012

Drop Inn Center Mental Health Forum: Debriefing

The forum was a success. Thanks to everyone who came, and everyone who helped promote it. We packed 88 people into a 55 person capacity room and hashed out the issue at hand: How do we better care for our fellow citizens who cycle through the system again and again and still protect their civil liberties?

For background reading on the issue, look here and here.

We had a good discussion. The panel talked through case studies, talked about the history of the mental health system, and examined shortcomings in the system. Professionals, consumers, advocates, and concerned citizens in the audience asked questions, offered opinions, and interacted with one another in a robust fashion.

We all agreed that the system needs tending. The idea of creating a perfectly working system for the mentally ill can seem far off when you consider where we are at now, but the future does not just fall out of the heavens: it is built with human hands, using and modifying tools that already exist.

Some suggestions that came out of the forum:

  • The establishment of housing-first community style housing with no insistence on compliance. This housing would require funding, of course, as well as around the clock professional staffing.
  • The adoption of a more rigorous version of Kendra's Law in Ohio, and many other states.
  • Increased inter-agency communication and coordination to better provide services to the mentally ill.
  • The creation of peer support groups throughout our communities, to encourage those with mental illness to stay plugged in to their communities, and to contribute positively.
  • Support for campaigns that attempt to decrease the amount of stigma associated with mental illness: people who feel shamed by their mental illness are less likely to seek appropriate treatment, and way less likely to advocate for themselves.
  • More forums to gauge progress on this issue, so we're not still complaining about this exact same issue at this time next year.

At the end of the forum, someone asked, 'Is this it? Are there going to be other meetings? What's next?'

The answer to that is that it is ultimately up to the community. We need buy-in from all of the agencies that participated in the forum, and the support of the wider community as well. We need people who believe in the 'network of mutuality' that Martin Luther King spoke about working together to help ensure that our fellow citizens with whom our fates are intertwined have an opportunity to pursue the life, life, liberty, and happiness promised to us by our founding documents. We need people who simply understand that it is more cost effective to reform this system than to continue with it as is; to house someone and keep them housed and properly supported is far less expensive than constantly paying for visits to jails, courts, prisons, hospitals, over and over again, on and on. We also need agencies who deal with the mentally ill to understand that their bottom line is also affected: if you're agency receives funding based on recidivism, breaking this cycle is incredibly important; not just for the clients, but in order to help you keep your agency's doors open. Mental illness is a major contributor to system recidivism.

The forum on the 12th was a good first step. Keep the ideas flowing, and keep connecting with one another in order to flesh out these ideas. Feel free to contact me if you would like to collaborate with our group on any of the bullet points above, or if you have ideas or connections we may not have considered.

There is enough money in our system to solve this problem. As one of our panelists pointed out, we don't seem to have any problems affording prisons, wars, and sports stadiums. It's just a matter of priorities.

Where are your priorities? If they are in the same place as mine, feel free to contact me at

1 comment:

TrinainUS said...

I'm very glad to read of this. My mental health care at present is adequate, but I have friends who don't have access to the services they need. Particular problems seem to be in small communities/rural areas, as well as transportation. In addition, people are coming out of inpatient care worse than when they went in. I very much hope to see this change. We're losing far more people to suicide than we should be.