Michael Ragland: ‘Recovery Model’ of mental health and state funding

Relatively recent “recovery principles” in mental health stems around the motto self determination, recovery, and empowerment. The genesis of this was the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (2003). Despite the fact the Virginia DMHMRSAS mission (now rechristened the Virginia Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services) statement is, “Our vision is of a “consumer-driven system of services and supports that promotes self determination, empowerment, recovery, resilience, health, and the highest possible level consumer participation in all aspects of community life including work, school, family and other meaningful relationships” there is little actual substance in terms of policy.

Given the problems in mental health, it appears these “recovery principles” which have no  real substance are a purposeful distraction at the minimum and dramatically cutting or  eliminating services at the maximum. The best thing about the President’s New Freedom  Commission on Mental Health is it doesn’t cost much money. Here are just some  of the major chronic problems which haven’t been dealt with sufficiently:

(a) There is a shortage of both private and public psychiatric bed space; in Northern Virginia it is serious and chronic.

(b) There are mentally ill being arrested and languishing in jails on petty charges.

(c) There is a serious shortage of low income residential housing for the mentally ill.

(d) Managed care threatens decent and safe services for the mentally ill.

Self determination, empowerment, and recovery won’t address these chronic problems. Only an influx of state and federal funding will. Lawmakers have known these facts for years but nothing ever significantly improves. Instead advocates such as myself are always expecting things to worsen and at best retain services which exist without managed care plowing through. Many accept the status quo. Unfortunately, the attention and criticism toward the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health was confined to the Texas Medication Algorithm Program (TMAP) and screening of children for mental illness. The colossal propagandized hoax of self determination, empowerment, and recovery and consumer run and operated services has gone relatively unchallenged and have been somewhat “successful.”

What the mentally disabled need are dedicated state and federal funding streams for  hospital beds, more low income housing, more reimbursement to private providers, more  state oversight of private providers, and heavy fines when there are violations.

This facade of the “consumer” being the ultimate end point must end. Without links a chain  link fence will ultimately fall down. The emphasis on self-determination, empowerment,  recovery and consumer operated services/peer support is a camouflage by this  administration to get out of the business of providing governmental mental health services. Its  proponents are well aware of this and thus it is a multi-year long term goal.


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