mental health awareness ribbon and badge

mental health awareness ribbon and badge (Photo credit: TraumaAndDissociation)

I am so happy to live in California (despite the drought!) because it is one state that is at the forefront of mental health care, thanks to a little thing called The Mental Health Services Act. I am proud to say that many people throughout the state (including me) went out and got signatures to get this important piece of legislation on the ballot.

What this Act does it put a measly 1% tax on those who make over a million dollars a year. Small change for them, big change for our mental health system. I am happy that the rest of the state agreed!

Since that time professional and self-help consumer-run programs have been sprouting up all over the state. I was privileged to work for one program at Mental Health America. Although they already had programs, they were able to expand their services and break their dependence on the unreliable general fund of the state. Also the Department of Mental Health now has their own mental health social center in my area and I have greatly benefited from it. They provide both professional services like therapy and consumer-run support services. They also have a psychiatrist there as well.

To a certain extent my positive experiences might be considered subjective but a study done last year proves that these programs actually work to help maintain stability and independence among the mental health challenged. Here is an article the study’s results:

California’s new mental health system helps people live independently

A new analysis by Oregon State University researchers of California’s mental health system finds that comprehensive, community-based mental health programs are helping people with serious mental illness transition to independent living. Published in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health, this study has important implications for the way that states finance and deliver mental health programs, and speaks to the effectiveness of well-funded, comprehensive community programs.

In November of 2004, California voters passed the Mental Health Services Act, which allocated more than $3 billion for comprehensive community mental health programs, known as Full Service Partnerships (FSP). While community-based, these programs are different from usual mental health services programs in most states because they provides a more intensive level of care and a broader range of mental health services and supports, such as medication management, crisis intervention, case management and peer support.

It also provides services such as food, housing, respite care and treatment for co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse.

“We found that these programs promoted independent living in the community among people who had serious mental illness but had not been served or underserved previously,” said Jangho Yoon, an assistant professor of health policy and health economist in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and lead author of the study. “Overall, it reduced their chance of living on the street or being incarcerated in jails and prisons.”

The researchers looked at data from 43 of California’s 53 counties, resulting in a sample of 9,208 adults over the course of four years. They found that participants who stayed enrolled in the program continuously, without interruption, were 13.5 percent more likely to successfully transition to independent living.

The only down-side to this is apparently the hispanic community is not benefiting much from these programs. I know that from both the mental health center I worked at and also the one that I go to now, it is very difficult to get Hispanics to come in.  Perhaps mental health issues carry more of a stigma in their culture. Sadly these people are more likely to end up in jail or homeless.

The study also mentioned that people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia may receive less benefit from these programs. But wait! Don’t use that as a reason not to try these programs because I have known many people with both disorders who have recovered, moved on with their lives and even have jobs. My personal opinion is the more sick you are, the more you need support, including programs like these. I personally can attest to that since I have bipolar disorder myself and I seriously doubt that I would be alive today without the help that I have received. So don’t give up!

Read the full article here

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