RI CEO and President David Covington featured on New Zealand Zero Suicide News Program

David Covington interviewed by Ryan Bridge about Zero Suicides goal

Is suicide preventable? Or is it inevitable? If somebody’s suffering reaches a no-turning back stage, can they be turned back?

Ryan Bridge speaks to world-renowned Suicide expert David Covington,  who founded the Zero Suicide initiative.

Listen to the interview here:

http://www.radiolive.co.nz/home/audio/2017/07/aiming-for-a-goal-of-zero-suicides.html

Opioid Crisis Hits Wilmington Area Hard; Lack of Public Resources Hinders Response

This is an abridged version of the original article. Click here to read the full article.

North Carolina’s place in the national opioid crisis is nothing new here – and the news that Wilmington is the top city in the nation for opioid abuse doesn’t surprise people.

These days, from well-to-do Market Street lined with live elms to the dilapidated and garbage strewn Houston Moore and Hillcrest housing projects, addiction is uniting the city. Acknowledging that has been a long time coming.

Joe Stanley Wellness City

Joe Stanley has been clean for 13 years and now helps others at Wellness City. (Photo: Joe Killian)

“There’s been a bad drug problem here for a lot of years,” says Joe Stanley. “But people are just beginning to really pay attention to it because you’re seeing that other demographic affected – middle class white people, rich people, people who are into prescribed pills and don’t start out with heroin. Now they’re seeing it can happen to anybody. Addiction can come for anyone.”

Stanley knows. He’s been clean for 13 years and now works as a peer support specialist, helping other addicts at the Wellness City recovery center on South 17th Street. But he spent decades abusing drugs – mostly crack – in Wilmington.

Most people working with addicts here agree – when the bodies were mostly black and being found in flop houses or behind gas stations, there was a lot less attention to the epidemic. But in the decade between 2005 and 2015 opioid-related deaths jumped from 26 to 45 in New Hanover County. That’s nearly as many as in Guilford County, whose population is more than twice as large.

But New Hanover County is 81 percent white. Its median income is just over $50,000 a year – higher than much larger Guilford. So not all of those struggling with and dying from addiction are, as so many people here say carefully, “who you’d think.”

Kris Ludacher, director of the Wellness City.

Kris Ludacher, director of the Wellness City. (Photo: Joe Killian)

Kris Ludacher is the director of the Wellness City – a no-cost, peer-support recovery operation that opened just last year. The group held 125 sessions – they don’t like to call them “classes” – last month for people struggling with addiction, mental health problems and both.

But before he was running the Wellness City, he spent eight years with a mobile crisis unit here. Even eight years ago about two-thirds of the calls were for substance abuse – and the number of opioid overdose calls were on the climb. Ludacher said he noticed a related trend.

“It used to be that you’d get an overdose call and it would be in a Chick-fil-A bathroom,” Ludacher said. “But then you started getting those calls and they were at half-million dollar yachts.”

Government services in New Hanover County are doing their best to combat the epidemic – but the need is great and the resources sorely lacking.

The county recently produced a series of public service announcement videos on various angles of the epidemic. But the piece of the story that is often overlooked is the impact on the families and children of those struggling with addiction here.

Mary Beth Rubright is Child Protective Services Chief with the Department of Social Services in New Hanover County. Her department has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic here, experiencing a 93 percent increase in the number of children who need foster homes in the four-year period between 2012 and 2016.

Add to that the sharp spike in child deaths related to opioid addicted parents –  in car crashes, parents who roll over on children who sleep with them, severe neglect and suicide.

“The numbers are scary,” Rubright said.

There are now nearly 500 children in foster care in New Hanover, a number approaching that of some of the state’s largest counties.

Medicaid expansion would be a godsend to some people trying to get on and stay on a real recovery path, Davis said. That’s a call many lawmakers in Raleigh have been sounding for years, but the GOP majority is not yet on board.

In the meantime, those on the ground agree a serious commitment of resources to combat the epidemic is needed.

Wanda Marino, assistant director for Social Work Services in New Hanover, said the first step is acknowledging the problem – something New Hanover is doing, but many communities are not.

“And we need more resources, more staff who receive substance abuse training, more resources to hold on to good staff so that we aren’t having to replace them and they aren’t chasing their tails,” Marino said. “We have a great staff here. They work hard and they are trained. But we just need more of them. I think that’s the case in a lot of places.”

Read the Full Article Here

Trillium Aims To Provide Health Services

Kris Ludacer Wilmington Program Director

Kris Ludacer is program director of Wilmington Wellness City, a partnership between Trillium Health Resources and RI International that is fully funded by Trillium and housed at 1960 S. 17th St. (Photo by Chris Brehmer)

Wilmington Wellness City, a partnership between Trillium and RI International that is fully funded by Trillium, celebrated a grand opening in January at 1960 S. 17th St. in Wilmington, a much larger location from the previous one-room space the program operated out of at The Harrelson Center downtown.

Getting more people who are recovering from addiction or mental illnesses to use the service means getting the word out about Wilmington’s location, said Kris Ludacer, program director of Wilmington Wellness City.

That also means “having people stop by to see the facility and just kind of take a tour. One of the things I think people aren’t realizing is we don’t infringe on anyone else’s services. We are an additional support, and we’re free to anybody over the age of 18. It doesn’t matter what insurance you have; it doesn’t matter what level of service you’re getting from another provider,” Ludacer said.

Potential funding cuts from the state could affect Wellness City locations, including in Wilmington, New Bern and Greenville, officials said.

Ludacer said one of the main impacts could be an overflow of people who need the free help because they can’t pay for other sources, although he said the Wilmington Wellness City would try to accommodate everyone.

Read the Full Article Here

North Carolina Funder Highlights Our Durham Program

Joy Brunson NsubugaCardinal Innovations Healthcare recently highlighted the success of our Durham crisis to recovery program and its director Joy Brunson Nsubuga. It’s been an epic year for Joy co-leading the Seattle roll-out of our Crisis Tech 360 product with Arizona’s Sarah Blanka and now being featured in this Innovations Blog. I really enjoyed getting to know Joy better at the National Council conference and learned a lot about the team in Durham as she and Sarah demonstrated the new electronic bed board system over a dozen times. Each presentation contained another nuance about our focus on real-time data to improve access and recovery outcomes for those we serve.

The article described the improvements in access and care: “As part of Cardinal Innovation’s provider network, Recovery Innovations serves North Carolina residents from four offices with a unique service delivery model that highlights peer support as a demonstration that recovery from addiction or mental illness is possible. These peer support specialists makeup more than half of Recovery Innovations’ staff and share their own unique story of recovery to serve as a model for pursuing recovery and wellness.”

Joy’s reply: “Cardinal Innovations has been such a great funder to work with. I really value the positive relationship RI International has with them.”

Big thanks to Joy, Dr. Chuck Browning, Dr. Jerry Fishman and everyone who serves as part of our North Carolina operations, whether in the Crisis, Health, Recovery or Consulting service lines. You are making a difference, and it’s really great when the funder takes notice of the value.

Read more on the Cardinal Innovations website: https://www.cardinalinnovations.org/docs/innovations-stories-joy-brunson-nsubuga-20170328.pdf

Ribbon Cutting Held for Riverside, CA Mental Health Urgent Care

Riverside, CA Mental Health Urgent Care Grand Opening

RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA, U.S., April 28, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ — RI International CEO and President David Covington announced today that the ribbon cutting for the Mental Health Urgent Care located at 9890 County Farm Road in Riverside, CA, will be held on May 3rd at 10 am.
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“We are grateful to the Riverside Board of Supervisors, the Riverside University System -Behavioral Health and the Riverside County Economic Development Agency for making this beautiful mental health facility possible. RI International’s aim is to ensure that every crisis facility we manage is inviting — resembling an upscale home rather than an institution – and serves as a healing space. In this facility, staff and guests will not be separated by Plexiglas fish tank walls, and our engaging teams will focus on helping every person we serve return to a life of meaning and purpose in their communities.”

Read the full press release here.

David Covington Announced as the President-Elect for AAS Board

AAS Header

The results are in! We are pleased to announce the newly elected AAS Board Members as follows:

  • President-Elect: David Covington, MBA, LPC
  • Secretary: Jonathan Singer, PhD
  • Clinical Division Chair: Melinda Moore, PhD
  • Research Division Chair: Jie Zhang, PhD

Other recent members appointed to the AAS Executive Committee include Bart Andrews, PhD and April Foreman, PhD.

We extend our congratulations to the winners, and our appreciation to all candidates for their willingness to serve.

A special thanks to Past-President Bill Schmitz, PsyD and his committee for their time and effort.

Suicidology at 50

Elected Board Members will begin their duties at the 50th annual Conference in Phoenix, AZ. For more information, please click on the banner above.

#RecoveryNow Annual Leadership Retreat 2016

RI International’s Board, Executive Team and RSAs from across the US met for RI’s Annual Leadership Retreat #RecoveryNow

New 24/7 Mental Health Urgent Care Funded by Riverside University Health Services Opening in Palm Springs Announced November 23rd

“Huge Opportunity to meet Community’s Overall Behavioral Healthcare Needs,” According to Riverside County Chief of Staff Michelle DeArmond

Left to right, RI International CEO, David Covington, Palm Springs Mayor, Robert Moon, Michelle DeArmond, Chief of Staff for Riverside Co. Board Supervisor John J. Benoit, Steve Steinberg, director of RUHS Behavioral Health.

Left to right, RI International CEO, David Covington, Palm Springs Mayor, Robert Moon, Michelle DeArmond, Chief of Staff for Riverside Co. Board Supervisor John J. Benoit, Steve Steinberg, director of RUHS Behavioral Health.

Palm Springs, CA, November 23, 2016 — County officials and Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon today announced the grand opening of RI’s 24-hour mental health urgent care facility, in Palm Springs, California, located at 2500 N. Palm Canyon Dr.

“This is a huge opportunity for us to take one more piece of the overall behavioral health need, and give people access to these services for our community as a whole,” said Michelle DeArmond, Chief of Staff for Riverside Co. Board Supervisor John J. Benoit. DeArmond added that the facility provides more community services, in a more targeted and cost-effective way. “This is one opportunity where people who are in crisis, but don’t necessarily need to take up law enforcement time or use a hospital bed, can go in and receive support from people who are specialized in dealing specifically with mental health crisis.”

24-7 Mental Health Urgent Care Facility, located at 2500 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite A-4, Palm Springs, CA.

24-7 Mental Health Urgent Care Facility, located at 2500 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite A-4, Palm Springs, CA.

“Our goal is to provide timely support before a situation becomes so volatile that people are involuntarily held in hospital emergency rooms,” said Steve Steinberg, director of Riverside University Health System (RUHS) Behavioral Health. “We are providing an environment and a level of services that engage people in their recovery.”

“One of the reasons our crisis services are rapidly expanding is because we’ve developed what we call the living room approach,” said RI International CEO and President David Covington. “The Palm Springs facility is our fourth added this year, bringing our total to 14 crisis facilities in five states across the U.S.,” said Covington.  “We marry clinical excellence with peer support, and work to make our facilities feel more like a comfortable living room or resort, rather than an institution. Our staff is not separated from guests by Plexiglas. We do this to help lessen stigma and provide healing spaces, welcoming environments conducive to de-escalation and recovery,” added Covington.

The 24/7 Mental Health Urgent Care is for adults voluntarily seeking assistance.  Services include assessments, medication management and psychiatric support. During their stay, guests will participate in the development of individualized care plans that include recovery education, peer-to-peer support, mental health services, nutritional counseling and coordination and referral to community-based services.

The facility is funded by Riverside County through RUHS and operated by RI International.

ABOUT RI INTERNATIONAL: Headquartered in Phoenix, RI International is one of the nation’s leading crisis services mental health providers. Founded as a non-profit in 1990, the Company is in Delaware, Arizona, California, North Carolina, Washington State and New Zealand, has been accredited by Joint Commission since 1992 and has certified more than 7,000 peers around the world since 2000.

Is Mental Health Working for Hispanics?

hands“This is not working for me,” the man muttered in my direction as he stormed out of the large banquet room. It was November 19, 2012, and the mood at the Goldwater Institute annual dinner was somber after Mitt Romney’s clock had been cleaned by President Obama just days earlier.

Today, I’m the CEO and President of a non-partisan, not for profit 501c3 Community Mental Health Center, RI International, but at the time I was an executive with a publically traded, for profit health plan. Several of our leadership were in attendance for the event, which was sponsored by the organization named after Arizona-based Barry Goldwater and which describes itself as a “watchdog for conservative ideals.”

Governor of Oklahoma Mary Fallin was the first keynote, and she explained to the audience that every single elected congressional official in her reddest of states was a Republican. She asked what the party should learn from the loss to Obama, and concluded… nothing. We should double-down on our values and keep up the good fight, she encouraged the audience.

Next up was Fox News conservative pundit Tucker Carlson. He echoed Fallin’s conclusion… nothing to learn.

Then, he paused. “Well, maybe one thing,” he added. “Maybe we should make sure Hispanics don’t think we hate them.” Carlson was clearly trying to add some humor to the subject of changing US demographics and their impact on presidential elections, but the man who protested by walking out was not humored.

There have been discussions for many years about changing demographics. Four years ago, Carlson targeted political leadership and challenged them it was vital that they pay attention to this key demographic and bring Latino voters into the fold. No more talk. Time for action. He described the significant growth in the Hispanic population, which reached 57 million in 2015, or approximately 17% of our country’s total.

But, what about behavioral healthcare?

Have we done any better in bringing Latinos into the fold?

Is mental health working for Hispanics? Or, are we the ones walking out on the demographic realities?

changing demographics in US population

Changing demographics in US population

When community mental health was launched in the 1960s, Hispanics made up a mere 4% of the population. Today, Hispanics comprise more than 30% of individuals residing in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. Other key states include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and New York.

And, the shift continues. In many western states, the majority of children in Kindergarten through 6th grade are Hispanic.

Historically, a discussion of race and ethnicity has prompted behavioral health leaders to point to our efforts to strengthen “cultural competency.” Check mark. We’ve done our part, right?

My boss at Magellan Health used to say that simply was not enough. When I worked for Richard Clarke, he always insisted that our behavioral health leadership team also use the words “race and equity.” He came out of an education background where the culture was strongly focused on active ownership, and not simply passive acknowledgement.

Richard formed a regular breakfast think tank group, in collaboration with local community and behavioral health leaders focused on change. The meetings included leaders of organizations that had specialized in meeting the needs of Latinos with mental health needs and whose client base was more than 50% non-white. Chicanos Por La Causa, Ebony House, Native American Connections, People of Color Network and Valle del Sol.

We borrowed from the educational/institutional model in our discussions:

  • Confront individual bias and racism
  • Transform institutional policies and practices
  • Accelerate systemic change

But, two questions were key then, and it seems they are still the appropriate ones now.

First, dis-aggregate your data by race/ethnicity.

Match up the racial/ethnic background of the individuals for whom you are funded to deliver care and cross-walk those penetration rates to the actual percentages in the population. If you find strong mismatches, start a tough discussion of why.

We found our system was serving many Latinos, but not nearly as many as the Arizona population data would suggest existed within our covered lives.

One of the key actions that resulted was outreaching and engaging the community promotoras, lay Hispanic community members who have received specialized training to provide basic health education to others in the community. We learned promotoras were not professional healthcare workers, generally women and extremely effective in sharing and connecting individuals who needed services.

Second, review the composition of your top leadership.

Several years ago, when I was serving on the Board of Directors for the National Council for Behavioral Health, the trade association for community mental health centers, we engaged an external firm to help develop a strategic plan.

The board reflected the composition of the leadership of the nation’s nearly 2,500 non-profit CMHCs, which meant that the majority were white males, and there were only one or two people of color. The suggestion: Focus on racial and ethnic diversity within leadership activities, developing collaborative relationships with organizations that represent diverse ethnic members.

The answers to the above questions are pretty similar across the majority of mental health, both at the plan and retail levels. Whether state authorities, health plans or provider organizations, we haven’t delivered the kind of care that connects with Hispanics in the same way as the rest of the population. The service penetration data says we must do better.

And, we’ve not recruited and hired the executive leadership to help us make the breakthroughs necessary.

Third, evaluate your cultural delivery and sensitivity.

It’s common for anyone to want to say, “My family member does not have any mental health problems,” but this may occur more frequently with the cultural stigma among the Hispanic community.

Do we more closely align with Carlson’s plea to engage and include, and ask how our services are working for Hispanics? Or… do we more closely align with the frustrations of the individual who walked out because change was too frustrating?

Maybe instead of an annual dinner, it’s time for a regular behavioral health race and equity think tank breakfast in your community.

Peer Supports: Where’s the Evidence?

peer supports panelIt was the late 1990s, and there was little published evidence on the efficacy of peer supports. Georgia’s Wendy Tiegreen had grown up in behavioral health… literally. Her father led a non-profit community mental health center, and she had seen the volunteer corps of people in recovery firsthand. These individuals understood the level of pain others were experiencing and were frequently providing informal supports. Wendy had heard of a couple of pockets of similar programs in New York, but that was about it.

Five years earlier, Bill Anthony and the psychiatric rehabilitation movement had declared the 1990s “the decade of recovery.” But, unfortunately, the concepts of “what’s strong, not what’s wrong” and peer supports had simply not made any material headway into mainstream mental health. In over 2,000 community mental health centers across the country, “recovery” was a word seldom used and peer support staff did not exist.

At the time, Wendy was one of the program leaders at the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) which occupied the middle floors of the 2 Peachtree Street high rise in downtown Atlanta. Larry Fricks’ office was just down the hall. He was the director of the Office of Consumer Relations and Recovery and had helped co-found the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network (GMHCN), which beginning in 1992 had since hosted one of the largest statewide annual conventions in the nation of people receiving mental health services.

From the beginning, GMHCN had surveyed its membership of “consumers” and publicized their annual top five objectives, with increased employment opportunities continuously holding the top spot. One of their most acclaimed successes nationally was supporting nearly 3,000 individuals in finding meaningful work in Georgia communities by the August 1999 convention.

Peer support panel

Former US Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher with Dr. Jerry Reed and Representative Patrick Kennedy

It was also in 1999 that the Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health was published. Another Georgia connection, Dr. David Satcher was also US Secretary of Health at the time and a founding director and senior advisor to the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. This key report was important for many reasons, but in particular, it introduced “self-help groups” and peer supports as an emerging evidence based practice and chronicled the history of the recovery movement.

Satcher and company described in detail the consumer movement of the 1970s and its protest of the indignities and abuses experienced in psychiatric inpatient facilities. They trace the history back to former patients Clifford Beers and Judi Chamberlin. In 1908, Beers wrote “A Mind That Found Itself” and ignited the first reform movement. In the 1960s, Chamberlin, with a similar asylum experience and motivated by the civil rights movement, became one of the primary leaders forming liberation organizations to advocate for increased self-determination and basic rights.

Judi Chamberlin, 1978

Judi Chamberlin, “On Our Own” (1978)

In 1978, Chamberlin wrote “On Our Own,” which the Surgeon General’s report referred to as a “benchmark in the history of the consumer movement.” It led to much more widespread understanding of the extra difficulties of experiencing mental health challenges and what services were really like. Over the next 20 plus years, Chamberlin was successful in raising the bar, with this inclusion in the 2000 report from the National Council on Disability, “Patient privileges, such as the ability to wear their own clothes, leave the confines of psychiatric facility, or receive visitors, should instead be regarded as basic rights.”

In the late 1990s, it would be several more years before SAMHSA would recognized peer support services and Consumer operated programs as evidence based practices, which they later did in 2002 and 2009, respectively. Meta Services was beginning to hire peers in Phoenix, Arizona and formulate key concepts around a recovery organization, but it would be a few years before the impact was known outside the Southwest, and the Company would not change its name to Recovery Innovations until 2005.

Wendy Tiegreen and Larry Fricks

Georgia’s Wendy Tiegreen and Larry Fricks

In this context, with the timing just right, Wendy Tiegreen and Larry Fricks joined forces with a mission to advance peer supports and recovery in Georgia. In 1999, they achieved a striking breakthrough, and successfully brokered with CMS (federal Medicaid) the first statewide provision of billable Peer Support Services. Their crystal clear and yet audacious goal was to build out the lived experience voice and in so doing to also expand and transform the thoughts and minds of administrators and policy makers, while creating a new employment niche for peer providers.

These Georgia innovators quickly realized that their victory would be short-lived without the necessary infrastructure, and over the course of the next 18 months, they led the construction of the curriculum and credentialing required for success. In December 2001, 35 individuals gradated in the first class of Certified Peer Specialists. Throughout this system redesign, the DBHDD team focused not only on peer supports but on what creates recovery and how to build environments conducive to recovery, as they saw these elements as crucial to a successful implementation.

15 years later, Georgia is a national leader with $20 million per year in utilization of services provided by Certified Peer Supports. They have continued to expand the model outside the original core focus, and these services now include peer respite, drop-in centers, wellness centers, and peer supported warm lines. Certified Peer Specialists also serve in administrative roles in addition to the traditional direct services roles. In 2009, Sherry Jenkins Tucker, the Executive Director of GMHCN, was awarded the Mental Health America Clifford Beers award, designated for a “mental health consumer whose service and leadership best… improve conditions for and attitudes toward people with mental health conditions.”

Today, Wendy Tiegreen is the “Medicaid expert for Peer Support” guru, having consulted with 37 states to adopt and implement peer supports as a Medicaid billable service. She has provided technical assistance through CMS, SAMHSA, NASMPHD and the National Association of State Legislators, and averages two to three state visits per year. And… she is not resting on her laurels. Georgia is continuing to expand the application of peer support, with young adult, formal addiction, co-occurring disorders and trauma informed care tracks. Now, she’s turning her attention to extra credentials for health coaching and prevention, as peer supports becomes approved for a whole health approach.

See Link: Georgia’s Community Behavioral Health Provider Manual which, within, defines the state’s various Peer Support services.

After their success in Georgia, Larry Fricks partnered with Ike Powell and launched the Appalachian Consulting Group (ACG), received a SAMHSA Lifetime Achievement Voice Award and became an integrated care and recovery leader with the National Council for Behavioral Health, appearing on the Today Show in 2008 after his story was included in the book “Strong in the Broken Places.” Last month, Larry gave the keynote at the 25 year celebration of the GMHCN annual conference and reviewed the success, from grassroots to national innovation and from pioneering certified peer specialists to documentation of reduced hospital admissions and crisis costs.

See Link: SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions, operated by the National Council for Beahvioral Health (Larry Fricks is the Deputy Director)

Almost 20 years later, the published evidence of peer supports has grown but we still have a long way to go in building the rigorous research required to take the program to scale.

To be fair though, I would argue that the same could be said for traditional mental health programs (counseling, case management, medical management, etc.) During the recession, from 2010 to 2012, my team at a large health plan closely tracked 6,000 individuals with serious mental illness who lost access to the core services described above and the vast majority experienced little change or fared slightly better in their two year absence (the algorithm included over 15 key indicators including community outcomes and costs).

If we used the world happiness scale as our index instead, the existing infrastructure of traditional mental health services would be strongly challenged on every core metric:

  1. Income per person
  2. Social supports and connectedness
  3. Health life expectancy
  4. Freedom to make life choices

80 to 85% of those with serious mental illness are unemployed. A significant number live alone, and don’t have someone to talk to about their problems or go out to dinner with on a Friday night. The years of potential life lost as a result of heart disease, diabetes, COPD, suicide and accidental deaths puts them on par with individuals in lower income countries. And, finally, we are seeing a call for increased assisted outpatient treatment (AOT), a euphemism for court-ordered and mandated outpatient care.

By contrast, it’s self-evident that hiring people with lived experience and providing them training as Certified Peer Supports would positively impact several of the happiness core metrics.

So, again, where are we with the evidence on peer support?

Wendy and I had a conversation with leadership from the National Institute of Mental Health recently to review the work completed to date and request funding be targeted at more rigorous outcomes research going forward.

Over the last 20 years, Wendy has compiled and maintained a quick guide to peer supports outcomes and credibility, and she believes much of this work has been very good, but we need more work and that is very challenging when the resources to date have required stringing together funding from occasional grants.

I was working in the Georgia behavioral health system in the late 1990s and remember what it felt like as these dynamics came together. Like today, there was resistance and many naysayers, but Wendy, Larry and countless others made tremendous breakthroughs, in large part because of the pioneers before them who had made it possible.

It just feels similar now in that we as a nation are poised to make the same kind of full scale advances to peer supports and recovery that Georgia and Arizona did in the late 1990s and early 2000s. When the White House takes notice, I think maybe something special is occurring.

Earlier this year, Symplur participated in a White House workshop which was focused on engaging participants as partners in research. Symplur is an analytics and big data company interested in the intersection of social media and healthcare. After discussions with Obama administration officials, they went back and began “building on the effort of many to strengthen the voices in healthcare that are too often ignored.”

Stakeholder Mix at Healthcare Conferences

For those of us in behavioral healthcare, the word “patients” is off-putting, but the essence of Symplur’s findings are that healthcare conferences don’t value the input of individuals who receive services. Only 1 in 100 influencers is a patient, and the depressing statistic has been stagnant since 2013. On the question of evidence for the approach, the Symplur team concludes, “The inherent value and profit of partnering with patients for healthcare conferences should at this point be self-evident.”

Last Thursday was a watershed moment at the White House, which has been the host of upteen mental health summits. This one was the last in a series on Making Health Care Better, with previous sessions addressing diabetes and heart disease, and this one focused on suicide prevention. And, for the first time, a panel was explicitly brought together to focus on the value of lived experience (see picture at beginning of blog).

Dr. John Draper moderated the discussion and introduced pioneers who came out of the closet even prior to the late 1990s when Wendy and Larry began their work . These leaders included Heidi Bryan, Leah Harris and DeQuincy Lezine, the latter a psychologist who leads the newly founded lived experience division for the American Association of Suicidology.

He concluded his opening remarks with the question, “Looking for evidence?”

And, as he scanned the panel of peer leaders, his answer, “Look here.”

Download: Quick Guide to Peer Supports Research/Outcomes

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