Autumn is a time when the ideas and concepts that generate change become clarified and shared at conferences, training, and other annual gatherings. Advocates and hopeful change agents (at whatever level) share both anxiety and anticipation as we face some of the largest challenges and opportunities on our path to a healthier, more inclusive, socially richer society.
The good news is that we have a perfect alignment of several factors that can only mean that if consumer and recovery advocates stay involved (and more become involved!) we can only move forward with ‘new paradigm’ thinking, behavior, and progress.
These factors are that finally, American society is finally embracing the need for dollars to buy value in health care and mental healthcare. By value, we mean optimum results are purchased through management and service practice. (It’s about time–but that is another story!). So services in both the public and private sectors will have to become leaner but yield more lasting and comprehensive health results, which means health care will need to embrace far more than medical treatment. This causes health care systems to reconsider many old assumptions compels all interested in mental health to welcome innovations based in new thinking. This is where system advocacy has a newly relevant voice, and we must be getting ready to offer values-based messaging and solutions.
Providers and administrators are setting new priorities, for instance addressing the health risks associated with social isolation (a major problem for people with chronic illness and especially for many with complex mental health challenges) will be taken seriously as providers seek to help people have improve health outcomes. What does this mean? We MUST enhance health care with peer support so that linkage to services and supports in the community happen like never before. We should certainly also count on the establishment of community based peer-operated wellness centers as a social and educational adjunct to improve lifestyle and health and to energize people to be come restless for better health!
Another exciting factor in the revolution of health care in our country is the resolve that we will care for the whole person–at least mind and body–together. People can not be treated successfully as long as we segregate mental health out of health care. We have finally hit the tipping point on this issue. So we will need people who can support mental and physical health care together, who can provide peer-to-peer support and challenge old assumptions people may have about taking care of themselves. So we need to be working to advance the role of peers trained as wellness coaches in our state so that in both the mental health and primary care arenas, they can offer the real-life self-help to people in their communities–even in their homes! We will also see public health care engaging many more socio-economic factors that threaten health and mental health, and promote substance use disorders. The statistics on these influences can no longer be ignored. This is and area that smart, informed advocacy can result in better solutions as systems and services are developed and delivered.
Now more than ever, PROACTIVE advocacy is needed at local and state system levels by consumer advocates, family advocates, and recovery advocates, including peers! Systems advocacy has a new relevance, because system results will not be sufficient without our input! And measuring system effectiveness will depend on new metrics based in personal values and experiences! As stated by someone recently, put the focus on what the system actually does, not on all the processes involved in doing it. If the results in people’s lives are not positive changes in health and the quality of their lives, then they have been failed and the system will prove to be unsustainable. THIS is the argument we must take with us when we ask to be involved in any way we can in giving input into system improvement! If ever the light has been shined on the need for customer feedback to inform system developments and improve the end results, it is now!