Tackling mental illness – Community partnerships urged

Public-private partnerships are needed to better meet the needs of mental health patients as they move from institutional settings to communities, a new survey says.

In-patient mental health treatment has declined because of medications that allow people with severe or persistent mental illness to be treated at home.

The first-ever national survey, released by the National Association of County Behavioral Health Directors, says collaboration is needed to remedy social prejudice against the mentally ill, as well as limited access to newer psychiatric medications and limited community rehabilitative services.

The stigma surrounding mental illness can be “every bit as disabling as the disease itself,” says Mark Davis, founding member of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumer’s Association.

In Pennsylvania, the in-patient population has decreased by more than 38 percent in the past five years.

Public prejudice can be even worse in minority communities, he says.  Culturally diverse outreach programs are needed to address this problem.

A news briefing in Philadelphia showcased a partnership established between Pew Charitable Trusts and Northwestern Services of Delaware County three years ago to provide supported work opportunities to those with a lapse in work history due to mental illness.

The Individual Placement and Support Program assists previously institutionalized individuals to find job opportunities, shadows them through the interview process, and build job-development skills.

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