The ‘Point’ Person: Care-Coordination

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For people with severe chronic and unpredictable symptoms stemming from a mental health condition having a reliable, trustworthy, and rational person is critical.


A point person can be anyone on your treatment team. That is to say. A point person can be your therapist, friend, family member, psychiatrist, or case manager.

It doesn’t matter which role they are assigned to on your team. Good leaders aren’t dependent on them being clinical savvy or carrying out complex case management. Instead, good leaders take on responsibility, own their mistakes, reap the benefits of reflecting on learning moments, and are passionate in their approach to the helping process.

My first clinical supervisor would remind me of these ethical and without question moral underpinnings of providing therapy or other services in mental health treatment settings. Indeed, my supervisor’s ethical and moral questions became even more frequent when I would allow other clinicians to take the lead in certain cases instead of taking on the leadership role myself.

Many clinicians, friends, supports, and allies of people with a mental health diagnosis don’t want to either be responsible if their loved one’s or patients’ condition worsens.

These brave and compassionate clinicians often absorb the blame of their colleagues and lose face or damage to their reputation when perfectly plausible interventions fail or were ineffective in impacting or providing relief to a patient’s symptoms, seemingly increasingly resistant to treatment.

That’s why so many people in the helping profession, psychologists, psychiatrists, friends, and family, sometimes take a step back and put distance between themselves and the person in crisis who would benefit from that sort of attention in the provision of their own treatment.

When people need a lot of care, either from stepping down to a lower level of care or discharge from a programme or inpatient facility, people in these circumstances require extra help. This is always the case. Whether it’s because people are adjusting to fewer supports or experience a reduction in the frequency and intensity of psychotherapy or pharmacological therapy, people in this position must find a way to compensate for the fall off and titration down of their mental health treatment.

Also, since adjustments themselves can exacerbate symptoms, patients recovering from a mental health disorder are likely to be surprised, blindsided at times, and always in suspense of other new or similar problems ahead while transitioning to a new level of care and step down in support. Which, in some cases, depending on how difficult or compromised their situation is, can be enough to trigger, invoke anxiety, and other more serious symptoms to reactivate.

Leaders, and natural point people, must sometimes make ethical and value-based decisions for their loved one or patient. These are decisions, which, at times, impact the care and provision of their loved one or patient’s treatment.

Patients need to believe in their therapists to help them make the right decision – there are undeniably times when people with certain mental health diagnoses experience symptoms that interfere with good decision making, and in many cases, are appointed lawyers and health proxy, in advance of losing the capacity to make the right treatment decisions for their ongoing care.

A point person may need to step in with a case like this or take the lead in these emotionally difficult situations for loved ones. With this said, when treatment takes a problematic direction, the point person becomes even more important. This happens in the tragic event treatment ‘fails’, and a more restrictive treatment fit needs to be put in place for their patients or family member’s safety.

For mental health patients in particular, who are likely to have wrap-around services, live-in treatment homes in the community, and in a supervised living situation, many patients with severe conditions live out their lives in these adult homes.

Since these adult homes are little more than a freestanding and self-sufficient ward scattered and dispersed in the community, we shouldn’t forget when thinking about a patient’s clinical picture, including a deep understanding of the patients living situation.

This should always incorporate the general housing arrangements to get a complete picture and direct treatment moving forward. Thus, being a leader means knowing the immediate mental status of their patients and, in clear terms, how stable the patient is in the larger clinical picture to ensure the health of their patients continues to prevail over their symptoms.

About the Author

J. Peters

J. Peters is the Editor-in-Chief of Mental Health Affairs.

Award-winning book author and Bold 10 Under ten award recipient J. Peters, LCSW. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Mental health therapist and disability rights advocate Mr. Peters fights for those without a voice in various care systems, 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.

Mr. Peter's battle with Schizophrenia began at New London University in his last semester of college. Discharged from Greater Liberty State Hospital Center in July 2008, Jacque's recovery was swift but not painless and indeed brutal after spending six months there.

He has published several journal articles on recovery and mental health and three books: University on Watch, Small Fingernails, and Wales High School. He is also a board member of the newspaper City Voices. Mr. Peters currently sits on the CAB committee (Consumer Advisory Board) for the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene in NYC and the Office of Mental Health (OMH) as a peer advocate.

Owner of Recovery Now in New York, a private psychotherapy practice, Mr. Peter's approach is rooted in a foundation of evidence-based practices (EBP). Jacques earned a master's degree in Social Work from Binghamton University and worked as a field instructor for master's and bachelor's level students in NYC.

He is blogging daily on his site mentalhealthaffairs.blog, Mr. Peters regularly writes articles relating to his lived experience with a mental health diagnosis.

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