The African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” may apply in the context of treating people with mental illness.
Debbie Plotnick, M.S.S., M.L.S.P., discussed the importance of caring for those with mental illness outside of mental health care facilities.
On February 28, Debbie Plotnick, M.S.S, M.L.S.P., senior director of state policy at the advocacy organization Mental Health America, spoke at the 2014 Intensive Winter Institute sponsored by the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the APA Minority Fellowship Program to discuss the importance of caring for those with mental illness in the community and collaboration among mental health care organizations.
Mental health professionals are often located in the facilities in which people are being treated for their mental illness, Plotnick said, but “we should often go into the community to ensure that there are resources available concerning mental illness, so that people will know how to obtain help if they or a loved one is struggling with mental illness.”
Plotnick emphasized that the community-based outreach concept can also be applied to help individuals recover from mental illness. “As we explore what we need [to improve] quality, we should consider more than clinical quality,” Plotnick said, explaining that mental health facilities often see patients when they are seriously ill and do not see those patients when they are well. “We need to know how they are doing . . . whether they’re back to a fulfilling life with a safe place to live and with meaningful work.”
In an interview with Psychiatric News, Plotnick said that she has had personal experiences with the integration of mental health treatment and community outreach practices. “My daughter struggled with serious mental illness as an adolescent, and she was able to find community resources to keep her in school and help her take control of her illness. She is now a successful young woman who is a nurse.”
In light of the multiple recent changes reshaping the health care system, Plotnick emphasized that it is especially important to advocate for both public and private insurance plans that will guarantee coverage of prevention efforts, peer-counseling services, and wellness programs, in addition to community inclusion services—that is, intervention services that guide those with psychiatric disabilities back into society to live a functional life. Plotnick said that this goal will be achieved only through a collaborative advocacy effort from all mental health organizations.
She added that by making the needs of patients the primary focus of interdisciplinary meetings by organizations in the mental health field, mental health professionals will become more effective—benefitting patients in all stages of treatment and recovery.
Annelle Primm, M.D., said that, “When mental health care organizations work collaboratively, it can only mean great things for the field of mental health.”
Annelle Primm, M.D., M.P.H., APA deputy medical director and director of the Division of Diversity and Health Equity, agreed. “I think it is important for mental health care professionals to learn about the great benefits of team-based care, particularly in the context of the Affordable Care Act, which values interdisciplinary work,” she said.
Primm noted that this is the first year that that APA and the ANA have co-sponsored the Intensive Winter Institute—usually it is hosted solely by the ANA.
“Hopefully, there will be some sustained contact and opportunity for research and joint policy work,” said Primm. “When mental health care organizations work collaboratively, it can only mean great things for the field of mental health and for mental health care delivery. People are now equipped with the knowledge that they need to be on top of cutting-edge issues in today’s changing health care environment.” ■