Thursday, November 15, 2007

Evidence-Based Advocacy

While personal stories and anecdotes can help to inspire elected officials to make change, they also need to present evidence to their colleagues to persuade them to adopt reforms. Sadly, many state mental health services provide little information about assisted treatment – how many people need it, how many people do not receive it but are repeatedly in crisis, how many petitions are filed for involuntary psychiatric evaluations, how many orders are issued for hospitalization, how many orders are issued for outpatient treatment, how often is law enforcement on the front line instead of mental health professionals…

Florida provides a good example of data reporting. The recent Baker Act Report provides an overview of what is happening with some of the most ill patients in their mental health system. For example, the report shows that:

“Nineteen percent of all people experiencing a Baker Act examination [involuntary psychiatric evaluation] in 2006 had more than one exam in that calendar year.”

Does your state keep good records about treatment for people with severe mental illnesses who need intervention? Is it easy for the public to access?

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