Several weeks ago some of us went on A Day in the Life of Extraordinary People, a guided bus tour of parts of Maricopa County’s public mental health system, arranged by Magellan Health Services, the County’s Regional Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA).
The County’s mental health system has been under intense criticism for years, and there are arguments to be made for considering other approaches to arranging things other than the RBHA model. But what we found encouraging – and even inspiring in the face of significant budget reductions for services and support for persons with severe mental illnesses (SMI) – was a uniform focus on system improvement and greater consumer and family involvement in the recovery process.
We were especially pleased to see two organizations that SLHI helped to launch with modest planning and start-up support – PSA Art Awakenings and the Family Involvement Center – included on the tour. For example, visit the Art Awakenings galleries sometime and see the work of artists who tap into their talents, strengths and support community to foster recovery. It’s amazing. At another stop at ConnectionsAZ’s Urgent Psychiatric Care Center in central Phoenix, a 24/7 crisis care facility, wait times for processing and admitting persons have been reduced from 90 minutes to four minutes over the past year alone. If you’re a patient in a psychotic state sitting in the back of a police cruiser, that’s a huge difference.
There are plenty of challenges and work still to do, but the optimism, determination and sheer will of the extraordinary people and organizations we saw that morning illustrate the resiliency of the human spirit. Hope lives. Don’t doubt it for a moment.