Connect 4 Mental Health®: Help Spread the Word for Community-based Innovations

Aug. 05, 2014

The diversity of our lived experiences is part of what make NAMI unique. As NAMI, we stand together to advocate for innovations that hold the promise of recovery for everyone.

Among our core values are our recognition of the importance of community and a belief in our capacity to inspire and build better lives for the millions affected by mental illness. In our local communities, we believe greater collaboration among the mental health communities, individuals, families and community-based organizations will help promote effective, sustainable mental health care services and supports. This is turn will positively impact the communities in which we live.

While progress has been made, gaps still remain in access to mental health care. Many people who cannot get the care they need end up living on the street and are forced to “rely” on emergency rooms or state and local jails for getting treatment.

Approximately 40 percent of adults living with serious mental illness do not receive mental health care. Nearly one-half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14; 75 percent by age 24. Early identification and intervention, unavailable for far too many, are critical to saving lives.

This is why last year NAMI, in collaboration with the National Council for Behavioral Health, Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Lundbeck launched Connect 4 Mental Health (C4MH), a nationwide initiative calling for communities to make treatment of serious mental illness a priority.
Community-based organizations can help turn the tide. Many evidence-based models that can help transform the mental health care system already exist in specific communities, but too often they go unrecognized.

Inspired by innovative examples honored at a C4MH Summit in 2013, NAMI is excited to announce the next phase of the initiative, the Community Innovation Awards, which will recognize additional models. The deadline for applications is Oct. 3, 2014.

Recognizing Outstanding Efforts

C4MH will award $10,000 each to four U.S.-based community programs that exhibit innovative work in any of the following areas:

  • Early intervention
  • Creative use of technology
  • Continuity of care
  • Service integration

Winners will also be able to participate in a one-on-one Mentorship Program to learn from the “national success communities” highlighted last year. These innovative programs, including an early intervention initiative in Florida, an integrated primary care and mental health care technology solution in Massachusetts and others, empower and equip individuals for success in their own recovery journey. Through the mentorship, we are striving to encourage replication as well as generate new ideas.

Too often people and families find little consistency between organizations and across systems of care when seeking mental health treatment and services. Through the C4MH awards, NAMI State Organizations, NAMI Affiliates and others are able to help promote and encourage programs that are working effectively in their local communities to improve the lives of people living with mental illness and who are at-risk.

Connect 4 Mental Health seeks to drive solutions by giving awards to and raising public awareness about those programs that are “doing it right.” You are encouraged to apply or recommend other mental health programs in your community to apply as well.

Stay Tuned for More

In the coming months, C4MH will also provide stories about the community-based organizations that will be mentoring award winners as well as stories from the individuals being served by them. Expect them to show pioneering, creative, and individualized programs and services. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to addressing mental health care locally, but we hope the stories will further promote actionable steps for communities to innovate and replicate programs and services that work.

Join the Conversation

In the meantime, I encourage you to participate in a Twitter chat, co-hosted by NAMI (@NAMICommunicate) and the National Council (@nationalcouncil), on August 14, 2014 at 2 p.m. ET. During the chat, you can hear from other communities and share your ideas about improving mental health care at a local level, as well as learn more about the awards program and how to apply. To join, follow #C4MH.

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