With all the great support of organizations such as; the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI), mutual aid peer support groups like AA, NA, grass roots organizations such as the Homeless Action Network of Detroit (HAND), Families Against Narcotics, Veterans Affairs, Alanon, NarAnon, depression support groups, and the hundreds of others, isn’t it time we unite into one collective voice?
What would we say? Who would we talk to? What exactly do we want?
We would state clearly, itemize precisely areas to be favorably impacted by proactive, prevention-oriented Mental/Behavioral Health Care (M/BHC) Reform.
We can start with opening evidence based discussions with the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA: http://www.nida.gov). Our first order of business should be to claim that M/BHC services are equal to, if not more important than, health care. The mind, emotions, the body, interrelationships and the human Spirit work together to create whole human health.
Furthermore, healthy humans contribute to healthy communities; and, healthy communities form a healthy society. Diversity, balance, safety, cooperation, mutual aid functions to form solidarity and strength all contribute to high productivity, innovation, creativity.
This is what it takes to build and maintain a healthy, culturally diverse, thriving nation or group of nations:
Consumers of M/BHC services are first class citizens.
Substance addicted patients are NOT substandard people.
In fact, many sufferers of chemical dependencies are victims of corporate pharmaceutical fraud, corruption in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), immoral and atrocious medical professionals.
When properly investigated, those who practice exploitation of the mentally ill or disabled may find themselves embroiled in class action suits against them.
M/BHC Professionals and para-professionals are entitled to equal pay and compensation. Professional status and financial compensation as returns on the steep educational and licensing investments in both time and money, must also undergo great reform. Intellect and talent must be attracted to the behavioral and mental health care fields to address the outrageous growth ands needs of services in our communities.
It is no longer acceptable to relegate the exponentially increasing needs of mental/behavioral healthcare consumers to the prison system.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA: http://www.samhsa.gov) is the government agency responsible for delivering support services to US communities. This government body needs to enter into dialog with the next generation of academics, professionals, hands-on caregivers and leaders in the M/BHC industry. While the population’s need for effect care, the industry is under staffed and under funded to meet the need of consumers for whom they are responsible today! How on earth do they expect to prepare for future public mental health needs? Clearly, a grass-roots call for REFORM is on my agenda.
Yes, like all other forms health care, this mental/behavioral health, too, is an industry. It is foolish, naive, ignorant, prejudiced or arrogant to assume social workers, school counselors, psychotherapists, substance abuse counselors, nurses aides, special education providers, mental health aides, practitioners, direct care workers, group home house managers, center based vocational trainers, residential directors, community based rehabilitation centers, dual-diagnosis behavioral health hospitals, etc. don’t all notice the huge discrepancy in their own pay scales compared to those of equivalent jobs in other fields of health care.
Interestingly, the system’s internal economics has reinforced its own substandard compensation for decades. There is a running self-deception within the caregiving fields. It is nothing more than a thinly veiled stream of excuses to buy into the neglect of their own needs. Hidden in the ranks of many M/BHC workers are severe symptoms of codependency:
“We are not IN IT for the money.”
“We care more for the clients’ needs.”
“We do this because we are good (nice, pious, better than, more responsible, unselfish, liberal, rich, damaged and can’t do better) people.”
I do not hold that mental health care workers have to be greedy, criminally exploiting the disabled. In fact, fear of being falsely-accused of heinous behavior has probably launched this culture self-deprecating, false-piety crap in the first place.
Whether coming from the self-victimizing or self-aggrandizing point of view ~ unabashed pity disguised as pseudo-advocacy is NOT what M/BHC recipients need nor desire. People who work at careers that pay them fairly, provide healthy incentives by honoring stellar service, clients that are safe, treated with unconditional positive regard, sense improvement in their lives are likely to tell others that they have a great job and will encourage the like-minded to find a career that suits them in the field. Normal, huh?
Fair and humane, hopeful, respectful, unbiased and understanding people offering treatment with accessible, down-to-earth, thorough and common-sense care ~ these are the kind of care providers most clients need and respond well to. An industry with this type of culture supports staff, resulting in clients actually growing to feel better, manage their illnesses and get on with their lives.
SAMHSA has so much more to do to fulfill their purpose.
Communities require well-defined strategies, well-suited qualified professionals meet the dire need and to facilitate the directives to addresses them. Who in their right mind would want to enter a field that does not compensate such valuable personnel in a manner commensurate with the very education/credentialing required to get hired? Additional irony – because of the vulnerability of the populations such professionals and workers will be serving, their education and credentialing actually either equals or EXCEEDS the standards of other fields of health care!
Legal exposure, regulation, socia scrutiny and media hype is much deeper for a administrators in M/BHC facilities. Consequences of failure and systemic weakness are much greater, and ultimately the populations they serve suffer in direct result of those failures.
For example, closure of state facilities for the severely disabled has poured otherwise qualified patients into the streets.while the original intent may have been to mainstream such individuals, funding for academic and vocational training of able, bonded personnel had been scantily provided to build a labor force qualified, safe and effective to meet the needs of those turned out patients.
Homelessness, gangs, juvenile crime has grown exponentially in communities throughout the country. Individuals quickly become drugged/self-medicated targets for criminal activity. VA, middle-age and adolescent suicide rates are staggering, and while an outcry is sounding, response is halting, incomplete, and, most troublesome, is still taboo a subject to discuss.
Funding is available; but knowing how to access it is hazy. Reform must make it a priority to raise awareness and impact social consciousness to make it appropriate, acceptable and commonplace to obtain care. North America has a ridiculously long way to go in mainstreaming the mental/emotional health agreements as taking one’s vitals.
Infusing resources calls knowing what to do and how to do it. Reform calls reclaiming and redefining each area of M/BH for continued and innovative research, education and development.
Jobs in medical and rehabilitation sectors of the field must be broken down into clearly focused disciplines and ranked for utilization at every level of intervention and influence.
Ancillary fields, such as; academia, public education, fine arts & leisure, families & children intervention and supports, legal and judicial reform with regard to treatment of these populations.* A special look at the increase of chemical dependency leading to death among the middle-aging and geriatric, adolescent and veteran suicide rates: Beginning with legislation, consumer safety, insurance, agricultural practices and nutrition, public health assessments, recording, reporting and dissemination of information in these specific areas is imperative.
Standardizing protocols for prevention, intervention and education at the local-state-federal levels to respond timely and appropriately to changes in public mental/behavioural health by neighborhood or community. What is meant by this is initiating proactive risk assessments to identify increased alcohol or substance use disorders in correlation to drug trafficking activity BEFORE a community is in crisis.
Fair practices in guardianship, probate, vocational and housing, transportation require reevaluation with respect to serving and protecting vulnerable populations.
We are to be improving, expanding and refining c
Civil rights language when communicating public information, social awareness concepts and efforts at inclusion needs to improve in clarity, expand to more audiences, be more refined, call citizens to action. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on understanding the challenges M/BH clients endure. Stronger consequences need to be in place and enforced to prevent bullying and exploitation of those with invisible disabilities in all walks of life and at all age levels.
Standards within schools must be raised, and districts must be equipped with faculty inservices, protocols, prevention curriculum, community based programs in schools and after school. Wealth and education is not a dividing line for which communities have such programming.
High income and urbane, highly cultured communities suffer the same distress from mental health disorders as underprivileged communities. This is clearly NOT a class problem; it is a public health problem.
Availability of and standards for systems that support all families & youth, the aging, need an entire restructuring. Keen awareness and response with effective psychological therapeutic services must be equally available at every point of entry into health care as CPR or administering AED aid.
Similarly, every stage of after care, whether it be with a peer support specialist, recovery coach, natural supports, each m/bh patient is entitled to hope for the development of innovative, alternative or wrap around care modalities accessible to him or her. Technological modifications in products, treatments, practices, are equally if not more important than the our equivalent in other fields of medicine.
Parity in social, civil and human rights for consumers of M/BHC is currently far below par. Legislation to correct this is mandatory. Violations, such as denying services to M/BHC patients is both immoral and reform must be enacted.
An adolescent in need of inpatient emergency MHC services for opioid addiction must not be denied a hospital bed because “…he’s just a drug addict; what did you expect?” Yet, a juvenile incarcerated for DUI has access to that same bed.
So, who’s in*?
Interested in raising your voice for Mental/Behavioral Health Care Reform?
*Contact me, let me know the best way to reach you to take action.
What do you think needs to be done? What do you think needs to be done FIRST?