Earlier this week, the SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services convened about two dozen representatives from the field. The purpose was to provide advice to the agency on the development of a model continuum of care for adults with serious mental illness. Participants included representatives from states, counties, managed care, accreditors, the disciplines, providers, academia, the family and consumer communities, and other federal offices.
To a person, all members of the group concurred that such an effort is very important and that the center should undertake this work. Broad consensus also was expressed that the continuum should be developed as a set of principles and guidelines, and that the agency should help to implement these guidelines in the field.
The need for such guidelines is obvious. Currently, the nature and quality of care for persons with serious mental illness varies dramatically from place to place in the United States, at the same time that new demands are being placed on local systems almost every day. Moreover, services frequently are very fragmented, poorly coordinated, and almost always incomplete. Many rural areas offer no care at all.
Along the path to the group’s conclusions, several related issues also were raised and discussed. Here are a few major highlights: