Mental Health Advocacy
BY JOSE ALEJANDRO, PhD, RN-BC, MBA, CCM, ACM, FACHE, FAAN
Traditionally, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. However, as case managers, we know the importance of recognizing how the mental and emotional well-being of our patients and the clients we serve significantly impacts their ability to maintain a healthy and balanced life year-round. Comprehensive case management assesses the whole person in order to customize care that meets an individual’s needs. We explicitly recognize that mental and behavioral health are critical parts of developing a multi-disciplinary treatment and transition plan.
There continues to be a stigma with regard to seeking care for mental and behavioral health. Also, there continues to be a reluctance in initially addressing mental health as part of the ongoing assessment and care process. Many times, we may not know that there is a concern until the last minute or when discharge plans start falling apart because of unaddressed needs. It is the “elephant in the room” that no one wants to deal with.
As case managers, we have a responsibility to work with stakeholders to develop and offer treatment options that respect the autonomy of the individual patient or client. Typically, we have a wealth of potential community resources available to individuals, their families, caregivers and providers. Connecting resources with individual needs is one of our daily job functions.
Mental health, emotional health and addiction can be serious and complicated issues. I have found that when we use systems thinking and evaluate processes from a systems perspective, we can typically find and develop solutions that can be hardwired within our organization. For example, understanding the intake process at an external community agency ahead of time reduces time and improves efficiency. Developing a process or procedure reduces reinventing the wheel each time a need arises.
Advocacy is one of our most important competencies. Finding ways to build awareness is not a once-a-year task; it is part of our daily work routines. Professional case managers have a unique ability of building and sustaining trusting relationships with others. These relationships help us build successful care pathways that lead to improved patient outcomes.
CMSA is dedicated to providing comprehensive education specific to mental health, emotional health and addiction. I encourage you to learn more about these important topics and apply your knowledge to practice. This continues to be a vibrant and exciting time for professional case managers.
Jose Alejandro, PhD, RN-BC, MBA, CCM, ACM, FACHE, FAAN, is the Director of Case Management at UC Irvine Health, Orange County’s only Level 1 Trauma and Burn Center. Dr. Alejandro is the CMSA President as of June 2018.
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