LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A unique event, recently organized by the North Central Legislative Forum Committee (NCLFC), invited elected officials to participate in a mental health simulation.
The creator of the event and the participants
The NCLFC is a group made up of several local organizations and mental health advocates, such as Willowstone Family Services; Valley Oaks Health; Bauer Family Resources and many more.
The event, held last week, featured elected officials, such as Indiana State Rep. Sheila Klinker and Sheriff Bob Goldsmith, taking part in a simulation where each attendee receives a profile based on real local mental health patients, followed by research of health care providers for their specific situation.
How mental health simulations worked
Additional factors such as “life events”, wait times and simulated symptoms of mental disorders have been included in the event to make the scenarios even more realistic.
Each of the profiles was rated on a scale of 1 to 10 on the mental health continuum scale. This is a chart with one to two categorized as mental health crises and nine and 10 categorized as healthy and functioning normally.
The profile of “Gavin” was shared among the participants, one of whom was Goldsmith.
“What I found starting with one (on the continuum scale) and trying to kill yourself, no job, no support…You constantly go from medication to appointment, from medication to an appointment.”
Participants, based on the needs of their profiles, traveled from stations set up throughout the Howarth Center to attempt to find the appropriate care they needed. Different profiles ended up with different results, with some increasing their overall mental health continuum score, others ending up having it lowered.
Klinker had the profile of “Burt”.
“I have a wife and two kids,” Klinker read from his provided profile, “but I have MS. Upon retirement, I thought I was going to be able to run marathons and travel with my wife. But no, I have MS and so my life kind of stopped for a while.
“So I went to see several goalies, Valley Oaks, I was going to have to wait a bit…”
Klinker’s mock storyline ended with “Burt” going to a privately-practised doctor and paying for medical bills out of pocket in order to get medical help sooner.
Klinker’s profile began with a seven on the continuum scale, where he experienced “current and reversible distress” and ended at level four, where he experienced “severe and persistent functional impairment”, due to the financial costs of receiving medical care; and the limited Medicare acceptance rate of some therapists.
Other elements of the event based on the profiles included simulations of schizophrenia and how it affects daily life and seeking mental health help, the mental impact of spending time in prison and the long delays in waiting that may occur while waiting for an appointment; sometimes months.
General objectives of the simulation
Kulkarni spoke with the Journal & Courier about some of the main goals of this mental health simulation.
“The group chose an experiential exercise designed to facilitate a better understanding of the complexities of the mental health system,” Kulkarni said, “and opportunities for improvement through legislation at the local, state and federal levels.”
This goal of working towards changes in our current mental health care system is something that was advanced through the event, according to Jenni Murtaugh, executive director of Willowstone Family Services.
“It was really the hope,” Murtaugh said, “is that this experiential learning would really inspire rather than just inform…and I think maybe we did.”
Goldsmith’s call to action
Goldsmith also reflected on what he took away from the experience.
“I really enjoyed it,” Goldsmith said. “It’s eye-opening to see what people have to go through when they’re on the street. And a lot of them, and the person I was (in the simulation), you do it yourself. You don’t you don’t have a carpool, you don’t have resources, money (or insurance).”
With the aim of this event to work towards legislative change to the current mental health system, Goldsmith has provided what he is able and willing to do to work – particularly as it relates to communicating appropriate care – towards that goal. .
“I want our medical provider to guide our people, our inmates, to the right care,” Goldsmith said, “with the right company. But then make sure those companies are on board, that this communication happens between our medical team and the other company.
“I think that’s (currently) the case, but it can always get better.”
Other Simulation Highlights
Here are some of the objectives listed as part of the mental health simulation:
- Supporting alternative care – diverting people with mental illness from prisons
- Prevention issues – mental health legislation and resources available to all community agencies where possible
- Legislation to improve the assurance and accreditation panel process (which) would alleviate issues that limit access
- Telehealth is important for access – ensuring telehealth remains an option (and is supported by) broadband access in all rural communities in the state
Margaret Christopherson is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MargaretJC2.
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