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Community Mental Health Re-Discovered: Volume ii

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Together, in our lifetime, we will witness the last discharge of a person with a mental health condition from a hospital and make psychiatric prisons a thing of the past.

Universal Access and Inclusion of Mental Health Treatment in the Community. Simply put, access to all available mental health treatment without entering the walls of the hospital. There is no question of the benefits to this level of access to treatment for people carrying a mental health diagnosis. This article will explore the benefits of universal access in the community and make recommendations on how to implement treatment in the community for practitioners interested in this long overdue concept which could potentially launch mental health treatment into modern times.

On a functional and needs driven assessment, there can’t be two systems at play in mental health. Economic trends and insurance models demand a single system to make reimbursement possible and lawmakers require one system to demand quality of care to uphold the rights of all those in treatment. With that said, the time has come to shut down the hospitals and in-patient units housing patients with inadequate and archaic treatment. We need to set a deadline for the government and office of mental health to evacuate the units and commence discharging all people back to the community once and for all. Once a deadline is set, lawmakers, policymakers and all stakeholders in mental health can really begin drafting new law for universal inclusion of treatment in the community.

Universal treatment goes beyond providing enhanced services in the community. It means more then lots of ACT teams and community integration teams to make sure people stay connected to care to reduce risk of hospitalization. On the premise hospitalization is no longer an option, treatment will no longer target hospital aversion and crisis intervention to maintain people living in the community. Instead, treatment will hinge on relapse prevention, and take on a preventative mental health model based on a philosophy that not all symptoms can be managed or eliminated, and people will have moments of instability. The target of care and treatment will be to prepare people for these moments in the their recovery and arm them with the skills and knowledge they need to survive these challenging moments ahead. The era of hospital is over, mental health’s bandaid to the psychiatric condition.

Providers, peers, and all people in mental health can expect major shifts in outcomes and people’s quality of life. Unquestionably there will also be shift in power dynamics between patient and professional. People with a diagnosis will no longer fear being locked away given non compliance or disagreements on response to treatment. Indeed, the road ahead has many obstacles before universal treatment can implemented but these challenges must be met head on if we are to move mental health treatment forward into modernity. Allies and advocates must lobby and community based services standing benefit and expand need to take up this cause and incorporate it into the very structure of their organizations. Together, in our lifetime, we will witness the last discharge of a person with a mental health condition from a hospital and make psychiatric prisons a thing of the past.

About the Author

J. Peters

Bold 10 Under 10 award recipient Jacques Peters ’08, MSW ’12 . Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), therapist and disability rights advocate, Mr. Peters fights for those without a voice in various systems of care, such as the New York City Department of Social Services, the New York State Office of Mental Health or the city’s Department of Corrections. Jacques is the author of University on Watch: Crisis in the Academy, which he published under the pen name J. Peters in 2019, and First Diagnosis, published in 2020. Jacques refers to his stance on recovery in his journal articles as “Too big to fail.” No obstacle too big, no feat out of reach, Jacques let nothing stop him in his path to recovery and healing.
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