Friday, October 11, 2013

Building Alliances Key to Recovery Model in Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s template for transforming its public mental health system has used a recovery model that has upended the traditional approach to care.

“Our first goal is to optimize treatment based on strong empirical evidence but also to individualize treatment with regard to co-occurring conditions and cultural issues,” said Arthur Evans, Ph.D., commissioner of the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services.

However, other areas of a patient’s life, such as housing, education, or community, also play a significant role in the recovery process, said Evans today at APA's Institute on Psychiatric Services in Philadelphia. His department has consistently built alliances with community groups throughout the city, tying behavioral health providers together with religious organizations and other local groups. Those nonclinical entities provide a sense of community, critical social support, and a way to connect people to services when needed.

Another key element of Philadelphia’s recovery approach is the heavy involvement of peers in the department’s operations at every level, said Evans. Peers in recovery from mental illness or substance abuse welcome newcomers to community drop-in sites or clinics, but also follow up with clients to keep them engaged in treatment and provide role models.

Evans has also instituted important fiscal and administrative changes for the $1 billion system to maintain standards and keep staff and providers focused on the broader recovery model.

“We developed a set of practice guidelines to drive any kind of services and then base our credentialing process on an understanding of those policies and procedures,” he said. It’s been a long, but cooperative process, since Evans took on the job in 2004.

“All the work we’ve done, we’ve done together as providers, consumers, and administrators,” he said.

For more information, see a study published in Psychiatric Services that was conducted in Philadelphia and shows that people trying to recover from serious mental illness face numerous obstacles in their poor neighborhoods.

(Image: Ellen Dallager)


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