Greetings from St. Louis

I am here for the annual summit of the ACMHA, which is now called, “The College of Behavioral Health Leadership.” Attended by researchers, agency CEOs, leaders in the peer support movement, and other behavioral thinkers, the College takes on broad system change “drivers” and opens them up for examination with the aim of advancing them into public health/behavioral health systems. I was invited to this summit by Harvey Rosenthal of NYAPRS and Steve Coe of Community Access.

The over-riding subject of the conference is health/mental health literacy and approaches to increasing “patient activation” – activities that engage and encourage people to take charge of their health and wellness, particularly those with high-risk conditions and social barriers to health. There were three standout keynote presentations that set the stage for discussions:

  1. Dr. Raymond Fabius, of HealthNext, an executive wellness expert who was trained as a pediatrician and was formerly with Walgreens. Dr. Fabius is author of the book, “Population Health” (2nd edition coming out shortly) and is an advocate of the culture of health in the business community.  Dr. Fabius explained the emerging core concepts of “population health” and a “culture of health,” which is the objective of population health strategies. He notes: (1) Focusing on illness alone is ineffective and inefficient. We have generally focused on taking care of people who are sick. (2) Traditional disease management must give way to population health strategies.
  2. Dr. Judith Hibbard, a researcher at the University of Oregon spoke on “Patient Activation: Improving Health Outcomes and Reducing Costs.” Dr. Hibbard and colleagues created the Patient Activation Measure (PAM), a tool for working with individuals to assess and then engage in specific activities to increase our health activation. PAM is well-tested and has been incorporated by the New York State Department of Health in the DSRIP program.
  3. Finally, a cultural competence work group gave a very compelling presentation on the formulation of a “Cultural Assessment” (CA) to be used in conjunction with patient activation activities.  The CA has these objectives:  a. To understand the importance of caregivers to learn about consumers’ identity and values.  b. To introduce cultural activation intended to promote an individual’s participation in the therapeutic process.c. To introduce with the CA tool, a set of “prompts” geared to help caregivers in their work with clients to help them navigate through common cultural barriers to health activation.

Because Ferguson, Missouri is only seven miles from where we are meeting, a session was devoted to “Disproportionate Justice” practices in Ferguson that has served to ignite that community in the face of the death of a young Black man at the hands of a White policeman. Two community leaders discussed the facts and the impact of such disparate arrests of Black men and women for contrived crimes (such as “Walking in an Inappropriate Manner”).

Black-American members of the audience all raised their hands when the audience was asked if they were ever stopped by a policeman for “DWB” – “Driving While Black.”

One of the leaders was head of a local children’s trauma treatment center. She discussed the impact of such disproportionate justice on children, and subsequent generations, from a trauma-informed perspective. As you might expect, this presentation and discussion went an hour beyond the planned schedule and was extremely moving. Audience members of all cultures and ethnicities retold personal accounts of racism they have faced and how they have incorporated their experiences into their work.

I look forward to sharing more from this exciting conference with everyone when I return.

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Michael Stoltz has been at the agency’s leadership helm since 1990, first as Executive Director of the predecessor organization, Clubhouse of Suffolk, and since July 2014, the CEO of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness (MHAW). MHAW is the result of the merger of Clubhouse with Suffolk County United Veterans and the Mental Health Association in Suffolk County.                                                                                                                                             Under Michael’s stewardship, the agency has grown to one with an $10 million annual operating budget, 150 employees, servicing more than 3,000 people each year through its Ronkonkoma, Riverhead, and Yaphank facilities.                                                                                                                                               A social worker by training, Michael received his MSW in 1982 from Adelphi University, where he has served as an Adjunct Professor teaching Social Welfare Policy and Human Service Management. He served as a Program Supervisor, developing and implementing the Suffolk County Intensive Case Management Program, as well as positions in management and direct service at several Long Island outpatient clinics.

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Posted in College of Behavioral Health Leadership, cultural competence, Service Delivery Reform

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