Minds on the Edge: a closer look

    In June of this year, a large group of stakeholders came together at WHYY to discuss the most pressing issues around mental health care in America.

    The conversation continued online, and was followed by the WHYY TV 12 airing of “Minds on the Edge” and a two-part series on living with mental illness on WHYY-FM’s Voices in the Family.

    Last week, participants from the first round of focus groups met again to hone in on three specific issues, to dig deeper and come up with some potential solutions.

    Insurance parity, access to treatment, early detection, decriminalization of the mentally ill, reducing stigma – families affected by mental illness and mental health professionals can easily tick off trouble spots in their field. In June of this year, a large group of stakeholders came together at WHYY to discuss the most pressing issues around mental health care in America.

    The conversation continued online, and was followed by the WHYY TV 12 airing of “Minds on the Edge” and a two-part series on living with mental illness on WHYY-FM’s Voices in the Family.

    Last week, participants from the first round of focus groups met again to hone in on three specific issues, to dig deeper and come up with some potential solutions.

    The three issues had been chosen by participants via an online survey: • How should we incorporate the recovery model into the regional behavioral health system?

     

    • How should we address uneven quality of behavioral health care (both quality of providers and identifying best practices)?

    • Given federal, state and local budget problems, what behavioral health services should get priority?

    For many of the participants, this was a deeply personal issue. Some had lost family members to suicide after prolonged mental illness, and said they came to help fix a system that didn’t work for their loved one.

    The budget focus groupThe members of the budget focus group had their work cut out for them; with diminished funds available, prioritizing spending means making difficult choices.

    Dr. Arthur Evans, who heads Philadelphia’s department of behavioral health and mental retardation services, provided valuable information on what specific services cost, and where communities will feel the biggest budget pinch. Other group participants had personal experience in trying to navigate the mental health system, and pointed to specific areas where they wanted to increase spending; for example funding that would pay for prolonged residential care for people who are in serious crisis. Members of advocacy organizations such as NAMI emphasized the negative impact of stigma, and favored spending more money on educating the public about mental illness.

    The 'uneven quality' groupAfter much discussion, the group came up with a to-do list they they felt would vastly improve the way mental health services are delivered. Surprisingly, many of their ideas were those they found to be “low cost, high impact” ideas.

     

    Some examples are:

     

    1. Liaison and training for faith based organizations, to involve them in early intervention and referrals. Also train teachers, child-care providers, police in mental health issues

    2. A clearinghouse for information and guidance to parents coping with a child’s BH problems, particularly during initial onset (e.g. Family Resource Network of NAMI)

    3. Public education to combat stigmas that surround mental illness

     

    The 'recovery model' groupAs the group broke up to see what the other groups had discussed, everybody in the room seemed energized and inspired by the discussion. One mother who had lost her son to mental illness said she felt inspired to go out into her community, do the work, and prevent another family from having the same experience as hers.

    An email we received in comment to the event sums up this sentiment:

     

     

     

    Participants viewing the moderator's reports at the close of the event.“Minds on the Edge: Facing Mental Illness opened my eyes, ears and heart to other people’s experiences as providers, police officers, family members and citizens. I am looking forward to spreading the word of the hard work we did together in our work groups. Mental Illness is a detour, not a destination. Thank you WHYY for an awesome dialogue experience.”

    The group reports are available in the right sidebar. More info: Visit the Minds on the Edge main page

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