When I have the honor of meeting with elected officials or their designees I make it a rule to always try to surround myself with colleagues who are a whole lot smarter than me. This meeting was no exception. Every time I bring a young adult with me to a meeting on the Hill I am inspired and encouraged about the next generation of leaders. We are indeed in good hands folks. But don't rest too easy; we have much work to do.
Last week, I asked Network faithful Lauren Grimes, Transitional Age Youth Outreach Coordinator for On Our Own of Maryland to join me in a meeting with Senate Appropriations staff to discuss the wide range of services and supports that are working well with emerging adults who have been involved with the mental health delivery system.
As always, our focus of discussion was on the importance of federal government looking at the wide range of needs of emerging adults, not just those with a serious mental illness. A current challenge, exacerbated with the horrific spate of shootings that have taken place over the past year, is that the focus of discussion about "what to do" is heavily focused on those individuals with the most serious illness, creating a troubling "either or" scenario where we have advocates fighting with advocates about what defines quality treatment.
Sounds like a perfect playground for the Children's Mental Health Network...
In the meeting with Senate Appropriations staff Lauren told her story, which includes all of the elements of current debate - hospitalization, medication, recovery, resilience, and the importance of capitalizing on the human spirit to improve.
Now here is the important part - we weren't there to ask for money for a particular program or grant. Our sole purpose was education - providing an opportunity for a peek into the lives of young adults who are championing their recovery through some amazingly creative and progressive ways.
At the conclusion of the meeting we made a commitment to provide continued examples of success with efforts involving the Healthy Transitions Initiative. That means we need to hear from you HTI grantees. If you have examples of success this would be a good time to let us know!
The other item we discussed was the controversial topic of Assisted Outpatient Treatment. Also referred to as Involuntary Outpatient Commitment, this is a controversial approach to working with individuals with a serious mental illness that Network faithful would do well to ramp up to speed on. As we are a collective voice, there are Network faithful who are for and against this approach. We are busy compiling a separate page focused on Assisted Outpatient Treatment, but for now, here are a few resource articles for you to peruse:
- Is forced treatment in our outpatient's best interests?
- Involuntary Outpatient Commitment Myths and Facts
- Comparison of SB 831/HB 767 ("AOT") and SB 882/HB 1267 ("ACT-TOES")
- Community treatment orders for patients with psychosis (OCTET): a randomized controlled trial
We ain't gonna stop with our education efforts in Congress
The distance from my home to the Senate and House in Washington, DC is 554 miles roundtrip. I must tell you that every mile driven down good old I-95 is worth it if we can continue the quest to broaden the education opportunities of those who are making decisions about the type of services and supports that are funded by the federal government for young people with mental health challenges and their families. Network faithful know we refuse any federal funding so that our voices may remain clear to be supportive with both praise and constructive criticism when necessary. Tempting as it might be to take a grant here or there to keep things goin', it's not gonna happen... (Here comes the pitch) If ya wanna throw a few bucks into the gas fund for the old truck, we ain't gonna stop ya!
President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network