The Unicorn of Readily Available Treatment


Based on a post published on LinkedIn May 19, 2016

Ideas to make mental health/substance abuse treatment more readily available are of the essence, aren’t they? Warning: it’s a unicorn to many in leadership positions.

Intervention is better than cure, to coin a phrase. So first, envision going back to school with this mythical beast. Public schools that is―and partnering with communities to create programs that operate under a new paradigm.

Don’t directly deal with substance abuse. There is so much controversy over the effectiveness of such programs. Deal instead with mental health hygiene, and issues of actualizing developmental tasks and milestones.

Work together from a positive strengths core. The purpose is to build a constructive union between people and their unexplored potentials. It’s about strengths, stories, and visions of valued and possible futures. This is the goal.

We need to stop pretending that the systems in place are working. We need to wake up to Transactional Analysis and Appreciative Inquiry. These are just two established theories that are tried and true.

There are no unicorns, but there are viable tools out there that are readily available. Going back to school, to effectively focus on actualizing developmental tasks and milestones encourages a sense of capability, autonomy, and positive identity in students.

Next, we head into the community. We take aim at facilitating transformation for the specific community we serve. Working with the families that make up that community, and thus the individuals, we explore on the basis of Appreciative Inquiry.

The idea is that people are better served by counselors and human services professionals. In this way, we create the community development projects that move us all forward.

Solving problems independent of a real context has failed. Somewhere along the line, social problems became the responsibility of the individual. Laying responsibility down in that way has created huge masses of individuals in need.

We want huge masses of individuals who are thriving.  Health advantages and personal success have eluded our communities.

Employment Assistance Programs, we are told, are there to help us. In reality, they’re just helping corporations maintain the bottom line. In the end, we all pay in a variety of other ways.

If employees drop out of work because of substance abuse problems, they are faced with waiting lists to limited public treatment programs. And there are other setbacks.  All this has achieved is an increase in social isolation and homelessness. The so-called recovery that was the purpose of this failed arrangement hasn’t happened.

The wrong people are making money and the right people are not being served. People need to matter more than politics, and it has become an issue of policies over people.

We can balance these ideas with the fact that resources are depleting. That substance abuse is costly, is also of the essence. There are concrete ways to make improvements. We can connect the peer-to-peer recovery approach, that spurred substance abuse treatment models and research, to current clinical practice. This will improve services to the addicted.

Better integration of treatment into the mainstream of general health care is possible. What is also possible is greater reform provisions. This would include shifting services away from residential and stand-alone programs toward outpatient programs instead. This is a care model that is more medically based and person-centered.

Leadership needs to make a serious shift. Current industry troubles in health care burden the system even further. New methodologies are about to become an addition. Like a bad template placed over an already broken system.

And leadership continues to operate out of an archaic corporate paradigm. Change is going to stall. Leaders can not become too busy enforcing policy rather than positively influencing people.

The simplest changes seem, right now, to be far too progressive. The American culture is too easily driven by sound bites and distraction. Controlling chaos appears to be preferable to taking the least effort and expense to provide a positive, collaborative work environment in healthcare.

The culture is broken. The programs are broken. Replacing the current standards is not a unicorn. It takes tools that are available and cost effective. These same tools can be used to train leaders to become effective participants and resources rather than mismanagers and overseers.

Until this rupture is mended, making mental health/substance abuse treatment more readily available will continue to be looked upon as a unicorn.

[ Inspired by David L. Cooperrider and 6 years working in healthcare.

Broekaert, E., Autrique, M., Vanderplasschen, W., & Colpaert, K. (2010). ‘The human prerogative’: a critical analysis of evidence-based and other paradigms of care in substance abuse treatment. Psychiatric Quarterly, 81(3), 227-238.]


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