Today I attended a meeting of a group of local advocates who are concerned that the future of our mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse services must not go the way of the past and present. We talked about ensuring real service quality, about approaches to ensuring that the rights of clients are protected and that they are empowered through customer services and client rights processes. We talked about the need for these functions to be undertaken independently of providers or care managers.
Two things stood out in our conversation. One is that Consumer and Family Advisory Committees must maintain a meaningful role in service development, management, and in setting and monitoring service outcomes. And since according to many serving on these committees and on the State CFAC, local CFACs perform very differently and have different levels of input into the actions of their MCOs, it would seem that advocates should ask DHHS first to ensure that mental health management contractors have in their contracts a commitment to establish advisory committees made up of clients and family members and that all committees should be trained together to ensure that these committees are empowered, vocal, and interactive with their communities so they can help MCOs develop responsive systems.
The other idea was that we should ensure that there are separate ombudsmen who can follow up on customer concerns and rights issues. Some advocates have, for some time, felt that ‘consumer affairs’ offices should be contracted to separate agencies in order to maintain safety for the person registering a concern and in order to look at the issue with no bias except to work as an advocate and resolve issues in a way that helps a person feel empowered. This means that taking an issue forward would not result in a set-back in recovery, but would actually enhance a person’s mental health because they have respectfully and gainfully participated in a problem-solving process.
I am sure that other communities have ideas about how to make their experiences with the system more productive and satisfying. This is a great time for us to be talking about these things and sending our input to the Secretary’s office and to the office of the Director of DMHDDSAS.
Your input to NC CANSO and your advocacy to state leaders are much valued!