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A Welcome Change

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor

  Look beyond changing the rules. It may be time to change the game.    

   -  Thema Bryant-Davis


Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

Systemic racism and its pursuant assault upon African Americans’ mental health never takes a day, hour, or minute off. Not ever.

Black clients continue to suffer mental health-related tragedy after tragedy. Their families constantly live with the burden of attempting to care for them while distressingly waiting to see what the next crisis will bring.

Kudos to Scott Sylak, executive director for the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board (MHRSB), for initiating a thoughtful, competent process to seek effective and radical change in the system. The final results could be a game-changer for mental health crisis system reform.

The MHRSB is the agency responsible for providing mental health and substance abuse services to Lucas County taxpayers.  In truth, the system is complicated and includes many players working on the frontlines of the battle, including law enforcement, hospital emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, stabilization units, and the mental health system.

Thus, it made sense for the MHRSB to engage this community of caregivers, along with individuals and families with lived experiences, to ask the question:  Is our crisis response system providing the best possible service to the people, or could it be improved?

The answer to that question led the group to develop a new model for crisis response, which conforms with best practices from around the United States.  A Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued seeking a provider who can implement that system. 

Three applications were received and will be reviewed by a committee of people who work in the crisis care system and mental health clients, peers, and family members.  The MHRSB expects to have a new vendor selected by mid-2021.

There are three notable elements of this story.

First, the process undertaken by the MHRSB reflects the “importance of the task at hand.”  Almost every hour of every day, someone in our community experiences a crisis related to their mental health or a substance abuse disorder.  Sadly, this fact is not news to many. Too many families continue to experience mental health-related pain and loss.

The MHRSB’s rigorous process engaged people from throughout the community on this project.  They spent nine months reviewing data, holding focus groups, conducting interviews, and reviewing best practices. From those months of work came a recommendation for a new way of handling crisis response in Lucas County.

Second, the MHRSB engaged an independent consultant to facilitate the process, develop the RFP, evaluate the RFP and help guide the previous system’s transition to a new system.  The company, TBD Solutions of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a nationally-recognized expert on projects such as the system in Lucas County.  Their knowledge and skills allowed our local leaders to understand and adapt the very best thinking in this field from around the United States.

Third, the new system includes a crisis care center.  Currently, most people who experience a mental health or substance abuse crisis are taken to the Lucas County Jail. The jail is not equipped to care for mental health clients and is a place where they will be charged with a crime, which goes onto their record.

The new system is built on the “Solution Center” that was part of the campaign to build a new jail in 2018.  Instead, the new system includes a “separate facility” where people will be taken if they are experiencing a crisis.  Here, they will receive the help they need and the criminal justice system would not be involved.

I am excited about the life-saving possibilities in this radical system of crisis services reform. This, to me, leads us to the most significant part:

A Recovery-Oriented Crisis System:

As a caregiver and relative of someone in the mental health system, I have experienced times in my life when a crisis – though not welcomed - was the catalyst for change.  Indeed, a crisis is often a “red flag” that tells us that we cannot continue along the path we are going. 

The goal of a crisis care system is first to abate the crisis.  Currently, the only options for those having a mental health or substance abuse crisis are jail, hospital, or a quick release. The system envisioned here, however, takes the next step by using the time spent in the crisis care center to refer the individual to appropriate, culturally-competent, peer-assisted, professional clinical care in the community. The plan enables the system to accelerate treatment and facilitate recovery for those experiencing crisis.

The Bottom Line:

Sometimes you have to either “go big or go home.” The new system is an ambitious undertaking.  It is the most substantial RFP ever issued by the MHRSB.  It is also vitally important to the people in our community.  They were under no mandate to undertake this challenge.  The Board, its staff, and the stakeholders within the system were motivated to act proactively on this issue by their compassion and commitment to the people of Lucas County, mental health clients, and clients’ family members.

Executive director Scott Sylak gets it. The MHRSB and its stakeholders did the right thing by initiating radical mental health reform. The reform provides the life-saving services that the community envisions.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at drdlperryman@centerofhopebaptist.org



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02/04/21 12:49:17 -0500.



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