Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley and State Community Mental health Director James Haveman—along with Legislators from both sides of the aisle—are to be commended. Together, they produced an actionable set of recommendations that would significantly enhance both the lives and outcomes for individuals and families living with mental illness, developmental or intellectual disabilities, and substance abuse in our state.
The Mental Health Commission Charge is Simple
“To address any gaps in the delivery of mental health services and propose new service models to strengthen the entire delivery spectrum of mental health services throughout the state of Michigan.”
The authors understand that this will require more than statistics and budget numbers; the victims are real individuals with real families. They live throughout our state. No zip code is excluded.
After taking time to listen to mental health professionals, patients and the family and friends that love them, the Commission exceeded its charge in less than a year. Among the many highlights of the report are the following recommendations:
- Review technology guidelines and reimbursement policies to identify the barriers to promoting innovative initiatives such as telemedicine services, improved access to appropriate treatments and early interventions regardless of location.
- Incorporate programs to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness that can be a primary deterrent to seeking care.
- Develop collaboration between the Departments of Education and the Department of Community Health to develop early-intervention and “Best Practices” models to address mental health needs of students.
Transformational Change That Produces Results
When Governor Snyder entered office a little over three years ago, he called for the “reinvention” of our great state. The Mental Health Commission’s report echoes that call by examining the need for better coordination of mental health care across the state.
Another sign of progress is that the bi-partisan Commission unanimously agreed on ALL recommendations listed. The Commission signaled its intent to stay together to ensure the implementation of its recommendations, and to seek additional ways to improve service delivery. This is exciting news for patient families and those of us that have devoted our lives to providing quality care.
Technology Infused With Heart
I would encourage the Commission to explore ways that innovative technologies can best be utilized to bring treatment options out of the Dark Ages and into the 21st century. In far too many cases, mental health treatment options remain stuck in the past while the world continues to change.
According to Forrester Research, 2013, nearly all Millennials and Generation Y consumers aged 24 to 32 owned a mobile phone and, of these, 72% owned smart phones. The combination of their increased mobility and the sizable economic strain expected with the implementation of the “Affordable Care Act,” are two of the enormous societal forces impacting delivery of outpatient mental health services, and the need to examine outmoded service-delivery models.
The Future Is Here
As the demand for mental health and substance abuse treatment services increase, we need to be prepared to meet it with high-quality, cost-efficient, alternative-service delivery models and that has been an impetus for the development of virtual counseling services. Research shows that virtual, internet-based counseling is confidential, tailored to individuals, and therefore highly effective. It provides better access, reduces stigma and provides the opportunity for early intervention. Because of its “here and now” orientation, patients feel less anxious and are more comfortable remaining in their own environment. As a result, they are more likely to participate in follow-up appointments. Such “on-site” treatment is prevention-oriented and less costly because the necessity of the traditional brick and mortar facility is eliminated.
Virtual counseling allows the patient to choose electronic or digital counseling options for mobile phone or video chat sessions (using mobile apps). For those not connected to the internet, users can still opt for the more traditional telephone counseling session.
The question being asked by Millennials is, “Do you have an app for that?” The question by consumers in general is, “Is there a quicker, faster, easier, more accessible way to get to that?” Not having a mental health mobile digital device today is the equivalent of not having a fax machine in the 80’s. The days of driving to a mental health therapist’s office only to sit in the waiting room for your agency-structured, 50-minute hour are quickly becoming a relic of the past.
The fact is, seniors, the disabled, younger consumers and everyone else all have at least one thing in common: They don’t find it convenient to go looking for mental health services. They want the support to come to them, when it’s convenient for the client – not just the provider.
Michigan can leap ahead by melding “high tech” with “high touch” in ways that reduce costs while enhancing the quality of services. As a mental health entrepreneur, I am pleased with the leadership we are witnessing in Lansing. We need to innovate, and I am optimistic about what the future will bring.
Vicki Bucciere, LMSW, ACSW, SAP is a NASW member and founder and president of BLUESPACEcounseling, LLC (www.bluespacecounseling.com) and has over 25 years experience in the areas of inpatient and outpatient mental health and substance use disorders and crisis intervention services. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was originally posted at domemagazine.com