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NAMI Input to the Colorado Task Force on Behavioral Health Survey Results

Thank you very much to those of you who responded to our needs and vision survey for the Colorado Taskforce on the transformation of the Behavioral Health System. Below is a summary of the results. We are conveying this summary to the Colorado Taskforce on Behavioral Health, to Mental Health Partners, our local legislators and local officials. We are doing all we can to make our NAMI voices heard and we deeply appreciate your help.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Boulder County’s Input to the Colorado Task Force on the Behavioral Health System 

September, 2019

We conducted two focus groups and then sent a survey to our NAMI participants, asking about their family’s or their own mental health treatment needs and their wishes for a “gold star” mental health system. 

We received 58 responses describing their needs, what would make things better, what services they have received, obstacles to treatment and their wishes for a “gold star” system. 

Most of the respondents are seriously affected in their immediate family or themselves by a major mental illness such as schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder or bipolar disorder with psychosis often with co-occurring substance abuse. Family members include both adults and adolescents. 

Several themes were prevalent in both the focus groups and from survey respondents. 

  • Nearly 79% of the survey respondents said that payment issues affected their decisions about acquiring treatment. 
  • Services that work well appear to be mobile, psychiatric emergency services with both a trained police officer and a mental health professional responding to people’s homes. Mental Health Partners is our community mental health center for Boulder and Broomfield Counties and their crisis services are very helpful. 
  • Mental Health Partner’s services work for a number of people if they have a consistent psychiatrist and mental health worker. 
  • Brief hospitalizations generally are not helpful because people are not stabilized well enough and often information is not shared between inpatient and outpatient providers. People are released with a brief supply of medications and no follow up plans. We need more civil, psychiatric beds in Colorado. 
  • There is a huge need for timely, affordable access to psychiatrists both for people with insurance and with Medicaid or Medicare. Many psychiatrists in the private sector will not accept insurance because they are not well reimbursed. Many psychiatrists in the private sector will not accept people suffering from schizophrenia or schizo-affective disorder. Most psychiatrists in the private sector cannot provide the continuum of services that many people with severe mental illness need. Mental Health Partners do provide psychiatrists or psychiatric prescribers for people with serious mental illness but there are not enough of them to see people as frequently as needed. 
  • People need consistency of compassionate providers with whom they can build a trusting relationship. 
  • Respondents repeatedly said there is a great need for an integrated affordable Continuum of Care with a consistent team of providers including:
    • Longer inpatient treatment where a person is seen daily by a psychiatrist to monitor medication changes and with therapy to make sure the person is well stabilized;
    • Intensive residential treatment in the community with a psychiatrist, 24 hour supervision, help with establishing a regular schedule, education about one’s illness, daily therapy using CBT and/or DBT, substance abuse treatment, help with developing life skills and coping skills;
    • Intensive outpatient treatment with a treating psychiatrist, group therapy, individual therapy and a care manager who helps access SSI, Medicaid etc. and who will go to the person’s home to help them get to appointments and provide support;
    • Social/Vocational assistance;
    • Supported housing with a care manager who is checking in frequently at the person’s apartment to provide the support the person needs.
  • Integrated treatment for mental health and substance abuse treatment as well as coordination with primary general health providers. 
  • Inclusion of family members or primary care providers as part of the treatment team with the person suffering from severe mental illness. 
  • Education in our schools from elementary to high schools and of the public about social/ emotional health to foster a culture of acceptance and support and reduce stigma about mental illness. 

Click here to see the recommendations by NAMI Boulder County and Partners based on these survey results

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