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NASMHPD/NTAC e-Report on Recovery – Fall 2004

Focus on the States:

Implementing Recovery-based Care from East to West

By Robert Hennessy, Editor

When it comes to mental health, defining recovery may seem difficult. Defining recovery-based care in public mental health settings may be more difficult. While there are efforts underway across the country to transform mental health systems into environments that foster and encourage consumer recovery, it is challenging to focus on replicable commonalities. Most administrators will tell you that no two systems are alike. Funding streams vary as widely as the treatment methods, and it’s always difficult to compare what works for a certain population with what works for another.

However, with the imprimatur of the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health’s Achieving the Promise report, all states are sensing a need to begin or increase efforts to instill recovery-based care into their systems, and they need tangible guidance. Armed with a handful of emerging promising practices, and believing that there is an intrinsic logic to maintaining health systems that actually foster recovery, many states are skipping the “why transform?” part of the discussion, and have started asking “how do we do this?”

“How we do this” is a good question, with seemingly unlimited and sometimes controversial answers. The list of challenges is long and daunting. Many SMHAs are in financial straits; the average commissioner has been on the job for less than four years (with a median of just over 2 years); and the data on what actually constitutes recovery-based care are not yet robust enough to sway the skeptical.

With that said, one of the best ways to see if the water is warm is to observe those who have already plunged into the pool. From the local provider level in Arizona, to the state-wide perspective in Connecticut, the following anecdotal tales are intended to capture the experiences of two disparate mental health provider entities for the purpose of naming core values and methods that have survived the trial-and-error gauntlet of implementing recovery-based care.    

A Desert Education

META Services, Inc., a state-funded vendor of Value Options, Inc., in Arizona, has immersed itself in recovery by literally transforming part of their service system into an educational experience for consumers. The result—consumers become students, and as students they learn how to recover.

“It’s all about role transformation,” said META President and CEO Eugene Johnson, CISW. “In this system, the consumers become students, and this helps people jump into recovery because being a student is a valued social role, and being a mental patient is not.”

NASMHPD/NTAC e-Report on Recovery – Fall 2004

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