The United Way of Miami-Dade spearheaded a summit of Miami-Dade leaders and mental-health experts earlier this month to examine Community Innovations in Mental Health. The effort is committed to adapting best practices from other communities and bringing them to Miami, promoting mental health and recovery from mental illness.
National Alliance on Mental Illness Miami-Dade County (NAMI) and South Florida Behavioral Health Network partnered with United Way to inspire an action plan to scale-up dramatically the county’s collective capacity to care for those with mental illness and their families.
The new Florida Mental Health legislation mandates significant changes in mental health access and protocols.
It sets the groundwork for a more humane and family/patient-centered continuum of care that has recovery, and not containment, as its objective. Collaboration amongn public and private organizations, families, patients, peers, managed care companies and providers is essential to the legislation’s success.
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NAMI, as the voice of the family and the consumer/peer, can be the catalyst for linking these constituencies together to improve on our “crisis-reactive” system of care. NAMI’s programs, free and scalable, can be a key link in a model of coordinated care, using evidence-tested recovery methods that other cities are successfully practicing.
The meeting at United Way brought together the start of this collective: NAMI; private philanthropists; hospital systems representatives; key agencies; the mental health court; political leadership and families. All present on May 6 are dedicated to helping clients and patients achieve the best possible health outcomes. And all acknowledged the immense need for more local resources for Miami’s families and their ill loved ones.
Florida’s recently enacted mental health legislation is sound and well-meaning. Good intentions, though, don’t reinvent a system of care. The challenge we face is that funding from Tallahassee is not likely to move the needle very far from Florida’s ranking of No. 50 in the United States for mental health spending. This is why Miami-Dade, home to the largest populace in the state and more than 200,000 college students who are in the age group most vulnerable to onset of mental illness, must act as a collaborative community.
As a result, we will be able to solve our own problems of fragmentation, high cost and unacceptable outcomes in the treatment of mental illness. Let us fund a community mandate to import NAMI’s national programs and other best practices, to fill the cracks in the system efficiently and humanely. Let us build a community collective championed by all the stakeholders, both public and private.
Mental illness is ubiquitous; it affects every family, school, place of business, medical facility, university, professional athletic team — every community. Untreated mental illness is the largest driver of disability worldwide and carries the highest social cost of any illness — even though recovery rates are similar to other chronic conditions when mental illness is treated. The most vulnerable age for onset is young adulthood. These young, productive lives are interrupted, disrupted or, in some cases, permanently impaired.
Without help, young people can languish, and without help their families they can be shattered by the stress.
We urge all of community providers and funders to join us in the launch that the United Way has begun. As a community we are fortunate to have the leadership of United Way, NAMI and South Florida Behavioral Health Network to foster innovation and create a positive tipping point in our local mental healthcare.
Susan Racher wrote this opinion piece for NAMI Miami-Dade County.