Recently I took a study tour in the US to get better insight into the workings of Zero Suicide Healthcare and Crisis Now models of care. These complementary programs are designed to ensure those who are experiencing mental ill-health crises can access good quality care when and, more importantly, where it is needed.
My interest in this trip was borne out of frustration at not seeing the downturn in suicides that so many are working so hard to achieve. What can we do differently? What are the alternative pathways to care for those who are facing a mental ill-health crisis?
In Phoenix, Arizona I met Joey. Joey was a guest (a term used by the centre rather than patient or client) in a stabilisation centre to de-escalate his personal crisis. He wasn’t happy to be there, but he chose to be there to get the help he needed.
Alongside Joey there were another 20 or so people - sleeping, watching TV, playing cards or just resting. Moving among them were trained mental health nurses, social workers and peers providing professional care, compassion and support. Again, importantly, not behind glass petitions. The aim of this type of centre? To de-escalate a crisis, help recovery and return to the community with links into services that will help the individual continue on their recovery pathway.
This is not a hospital. If further or longer-term care is needed the unit is well connected to inpatient facilities also staffed by caring, competent and confident professionals and peers. Its whole purpose is to move the guests away from the hospital system, reducing the stress of sitting in an emergency department waiting…waiting….waiting.
Just as Zero Suicide Healthcare is to improve the experience of being in hospital the stabilisation units offer alternative pathways to care without hospitalisation because the crisis is ameliorated by psycho-social support. If medical care is needed channels are available to admit the guest to inpatient care.
No system will be perfect, but this is certainly a more compassionate approach to caring for those experiencing a mental ill-health crisis. With trained professionals and peer staff it means guests in the centre get the right care at the right time in a place of their choosing.
I will be speaking with Commonwealth, State and Territory governments about what we can do in Australia to improve the care pathways for those experiencing a mental ill-health crisis.
Check out this short video. It is 3 minutes and explains the benefits of the Crisis Now model. Let me know what you think.