I just got word that both of my workshop proposals that I submitted to Alternatives 2010, were accepted. This is the national mental health consumer conference in Pasadena. I am getting a scholarship for my registration and travel expenses from the NASMHPD. They have some really good research on their website. One of the workshops I am doing is on using success stories from the developing world in how they’re handling their own social justice issues. They can be a model for us to handle things like the mental health budget cuts, since some studies show better recovery outcomes in developing worlds. The other workshop is about developing art into a self-supporting business, which is material I learned in the Creative Capital workshop. Hopefully I will have this material completely figured out by September.
I am linking to a 77 page PDF called subsidizing unsustainibility. Don’t print it out – read it on the screen. Basically it says that the free market doesn’t help the environment because there is no “free” market because everything is heavily subsidized towards the existing model of big growth and resource depletion. This is important to us in the mental health field because many of our funding systems are also unsustainable. For instance, the biggest expenditure in our system is the payment of disability entitlements to those of us who can’t work. Yet 60% of people with disabilities are seeking work. So instead paying us not to work, it would be much more effective to fund additional voc rehab program that we didn’t have to beg to help us, or deal with the stigma and judgments found in many voc rehab departments.
Dan Fisher said at the last Alternatives, “We need to find a new definition for disability. Instead of making us swear that we can’t work, we need to find a definition that acknowledges that we simply have barriers to the workplace. Then help us overcome those barriers.”
Other unsustainable elements of the mental health system include judges deciding who gets hospital beds instead of doctors. In Missouri we’ve filled a lot of our hospital beds with sex offenders that judges won’t release which causes the shortage of beds for people needing acute treatment.We’ve blurred the line between criminal justice and mental health in order to be able to lay off mental health staff. We keep large institutions like Fulton open when the place is architecturally dangerous and leads to serious levels of staff injury. Instead, we could have used economic stimulus funds to build 17 bed or less hospitals in local communities where families could remain involved and much higher levels of Medicaid funding would be available.
I am still trying to track down research that shows that consumer operated programs promote recovery more and are more cost effective than day programs. We want to keep people out of the mental health system, not get them to rely on the system for all their needs. All of our programs should be for temporary use only. The best testimony for a warmline is that a person feels like they have built natural supports and don’t need to call anymore.
This kind of thinking is the purpose of Human Hand Wordworks. Stay tuned for the next installment.