Impossible – Amazing Stories of Recovery

Bill_C_Info-Pic.fwIt’s been rejuvenating to read all the stories being shared as part of Recovery Month, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) annual effort to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover. Being reminded of others successes is integral to creating an authentic atmosphere of hope for clinicians and their patients alike. We all feed off each other. That’s what community is about. In my 15-plus years as a licensed, clinical social worker I had the pleasure of seeing countless individuals find a way forward.

As my Netsmart colleagues (also former social workers) and I talked, we discovered that each of us had similar experiences. In the interest of stoking the flames of hope, we’ve chosen to share those stories here. One involves my interactions with a man battling schizophrenia.

A second comes from my co-worker Andrew Mersman, who counseled a young girl who was abused.

And finally, we’ll hear from my colleague Joe Kocsis who walked alongside a man who had turned to substance use to cope with a family tragedy.

Please feel free to share these stories individually or the blog as a whole. And remember, impossible is just a word.

The Value of Becoming 1 in a Million – The Mental Health First Aid Movement


It only took eight hours, but it’s changed my perspective on how I see people I interact with in my work and personal life.

Recently my co-workers and I used one of our two volunteer days (what Netsmart calls EveryDayMatters Days) to take the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course and learn more about mental illness and how to help people going through difficult times.  Netsmart is among only a handful of companies nationwide offering this training directly to their associates at work instead of leaving it to us to pursue on our own time.

It’s usually easy to recognize physical illnesses in others. But thanks to MHFA, my eyes were opened to look for signs of mental health or substance use issues in family members, friends and colleagues. More importantly, MFA training equipped me with an action plan to use if I encounter someone who might be in trouble. That’s powerful. It’s got me thinking about what a major difference we can collectively make.

Proudly certified in Mental Health First Aid… one of Netsmart’s first MHFA classes

The breadth and depth of the problem of mental illness is significant. We learned that one in four Americans experience a mental health or addiction disorder each year. The trainers who visited my workplace also shared their personal stories about how mental illness has impacted their lives. Hearing those stories, relating to those stories and understanding how a single, concerned individual can help others chart a new course made a big impression on the 20+ people in our certification class. It’s one thing to hear about the financial costs associated with mental illness in the workplace – business losses of an estimated $80 to $100 million – but to listen to tales of the personal losses inflicted by treatable diseases of the mind…that hits home.

The American Heart Association estimates that about 30 percent of our country’s population is trained in CPR.  But at the beginning of 2016, there were only 660,000 trained in Mental Health First Aid. The National Council for Behavioral Health’s “Be 1 in a Million” campaign’s goal is to train one million people in MFA by the end of the year. I’m thrilled to be able to make a difference as one of those trained to help.

Has the Disease Definition of Addiction Prevailed?

Bill_C_Info-Pic.fwIt’s been eight years since the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) became law. At its core, the law was intended to ensure that insurance providers who offer mental health or substance use disorder benefits don’t impose any limitations on those benefits that differ from what is offered for primary care. Continue reading Has the Disease Definition of Addiction Prevailed?

Clarity through Consoles

Jim_Rodriguez.fwI recently received a pleasantly surprising e-mail from a clinician and colleague here at Child Guidance Center which read, “I feel like a six year old girl getting her Christmas gift early!” When you help manage an organization’s internal IT, the emails you receive typically contain more problems than praise. Continue reading Clarity through Consoles

Close but no Cigar: Functional Measurement versus Level of Care Placement

Denny_M_Info-PicMeasurement is a good thing. Maybe there are a few naysayers out there who believe you can’t measure this psychotherapy stuff but the fact is whether you believe it or not, measuring whether what you do is effective is the future. We are moving rapidly into a pay for performance (PFP) reimbursement model where improvement will have to be monitored. Even if you aren’t in a PFP model, you will likely be seeing more capitation reimbursement coming your way. In both cases, overtreatment can be financially deadly. The goal is to provide the right amount of care at the right time. So, whether you agree or not, you will be held accountable to measurement. But what to measure? Continue reading Close but no Cigar: Functional Measurement versus Level of Care Placement

Cancer, Depression and Treatment of the Whole Person


At the end of every referral — at the heart of every transaction – at the core of every data point – is a living, breathing person. We all intuitively know that’s true, but in the busyness of daily life – yes, even in healthcare – it’s vital that we’re reminded of that essential truth. Continue reading Cancer, Depression and Treatment of the Whole Person

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