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Celebrating collaboration

May 1, 2009
by Douglas J. Edwards, Editor-in-Chief
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The theme of last month's National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare conference was “Together we will,” and attendees were invited to imagine all they could accomplish through their collective efforts. I always am amazed by stories of organizations working together to achieve a common good. After all, just getting individual departments to collaborate on a project is challenging enough, so I'm impressed when two or more organizations find ways to better care for people with mental health and substance use problems.

Thus, I was intrigued by the group effort to increase the number of adult inpatient psychiatric beds in Northwest Arkansas, which involves three acute-care hospitals, a local foundation, a university, and a community mental health center (CMHC), along with a management company's assistance. Each partner is bringing vital resources to meet an important community need. In fact, such cooperation is key to behavioral healthcare organizations' ability to help people while surviving tough times. As Tom Petrizzo, MSW, JD, chief executive of the CMHC involved in the project, writes in this month's cover story, “This initiative embodies one of the grand principles of providing behavioral healthcare services in an era of shrinking resources and tightening budgets: collaboration.” In this issue, we have other stories that also demonstrate how organizations are meeting their communities' needs by working together.

While at the National Council conference I learned of an especially large collaboration in the works. More than 70 nonprofit partner organizations in Bexar County, Texas, are developing Haven for Hope, a multiservice campus for people who are homeless. The 440,000-square-foot complex, to be finished next year, will have 830 beds and a courtyard to sleep another 500 (for those not yet ready to “come inside”). Haven for Hope will provide a central location for mental health and substance use services; medical, dental, and vision care; job training; legal assistance; and many other services (See http://www.havenforhope.org for more details).

Partnering with other organizations to achieve a common good isn't easy. Executives and clinical staff alike have plenty on their plates, and just finding time for the multiple meetings that collaborations entail is challenging enough, not to mention the difficulty of uncovering financial and staff resources to make projects work. But all across the country innovative organizations are strengthening existing partnerships and exploring new ones to better serve their clients and communities. In a time of decreasing dollars and mounting demands, such creative thinking-and risk taking-deserves a round of applause.

Douglas J. Edwards, Editor-in-Chief
P.S. In our own form of collaboration, the Vendome Group and the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers have partnered to make Behavioral Healthcare NAATP's official publication.
Behavioral Healthcare 2009 May;29(5):6