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NASMHPD/NTAC e-Report on Recovery – Fall 2004

Expert Panel Discusses Workforce Issues in the Face of a Recovery-Based Care Transformation

By all accounts, system transformation requires a skilled and dedicated workforce that is willing to be flexible while enabling change. For state mental health agency administrators, the workforce provides both a source of daily challenges, and the answers to the system’s ills. Whether consumer or non-consumer, psychiatrist or nurse, the workforce is the engine that makes the current system run. This NASMHPD/NTAC e-Report features a panel of three experts on recovery-based care issues discussing the status of a public mental health workforce on the verge of system transformation.

Patricia E. Deegan, PhD, of the consulting firm Pat Deegan & Associates, also serves as a senior program advisor with Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. Mary E. Jensen, RODC, MA, BSN, is a development specialist for Consumer and Family Services for Illinois DHS/DMH-Greater Illinois North Region. Edward L. Knight, PhD, CPRP, is the vice president of Recovery, Rehabilitation, and Mutual Support at Value Options, and is also an adjunct professor of Rehabilitation Sciences at Boston University.

1) What can the public mental health system workforce (clinical and administrative) do to become more informed about recovery-based care?

Deegan: I think the number one thing is to listen to consumer/survivor/ex-patients in the mental health system about what helps and what hinders recovery. We need to urge staff to get beyond the assumption that people with psychiatric disabilities can’t speak on their own behalf. Pay attention to people who work as advocates, especially those with first-hand experience of the system. Include consumer/survivor advocates at all levels of the mental health system to make sure that we are there in a real presence, represented in all our diversity. There is an error that is often made that we all think the same way, that if you have one consumer on the committee, that makes it an integrated committee. Also, don’t just listen to satisfaction questionnaires. These can be misleading because what the survey shows is a person’s level of satisfaction with the services, as if the services themselves are an end point. One of the keys to understanding recovery is that services should be a means to an end—living a full and meaningful life in the community, with relationships enmeshed with the world of commerce, employment, and education. To me, rehabilitation is about services, technologies, professionals, advisors, or experts that people with psychiatric disabilities can consult with, can receive guidance from, can involve themselves with about shared decision making. Recovery is a person-centered phenomenon. You can’t ‘do recovery’ to someone. You can’t ‘do services’ that will force someone to recover. Recovery-based services will always be one small part or one small ingredient for a person with psychiatric disabilities to achieve a meaningful life in the community.

Jensen: In terms of ideas I have heard from the field, one idea is to make it mandatory that all current and new professionals take some sort of psychosocial rehabilitation certification course so that they know about rehabilitation. Another idea is to promote

NASMHPD/NTAC e-Report on Recovery – Fall 2004

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