Gathering for Action- A Behavioral Health Forum
On Tuesday, September 20, 2022, more than 85 representatives of agencies, hospital systems, county, state, and federal government, churches, and citizens of Montgomery County met to identify ways to improve and strengthen our behavioral healthcare services. The term “behavioral health” as it is used in this Forum is an overarching umbrella for a variety of mental, biological, and behavioral conditions and includes all forms of mental illness (from phobias to schizophrenia), substance use disorders, and a variety of other conditions including autism and eating disorders. While commonly referred to as ‘mental health or mental illness,’ this larger group of behavioral health conditions often have a different origin and respond to different interventions.
The purpose and goals of the meeting were to engage and connect key stakeholders from all parts of the county with an interest in promoting improved behavioral health in Montgomery County while ensuring people with lived experience and their families are visible, vocal, and valued. In addition, the “Gathering for Action” identified what public and private behavioral health resources currently exist in Montgomery County, including resources addressing social determinants of health as well as where the gaps exist. The Forum process to define and elaborate on a pathway for the community to collaborate in addressing identified needs and filling identified gaps was central to the strategies utilized. The meeting also focused on developing a plan of key action steps for stakeholders moving forward.
Through a participatory process, the diverse group of stakeholders defined the following top priorities for action:
- Improving the flow of information and cross-agency collaboration among law enforcement, mental health, and substance use services to move people toward emotional and physical health, not just emergency intervention.
- Collecting data on critical behavioral health challenges in Montgomery County and addressing those challenges through outreach to specific audiences and education about relevant options.
- Increasing the number and size of peer support groups and one-on-one peer services as well as creating a peer-run space for informal social connection.
- Creating a blueprint – and pathways to funding it – for increasing inclusive housing options with services and support for people with serious mental illnesses.
As a point of reference, the Gathering for Action Forum allowed an opportunity to orient the participants to the work of the Behavioral Health and Suicide Prevention Community Taskforce of Montgomery County over the past three years. Although the “Gathering for Action” was initially a one-day event, the process includes five focus groups and four action workgroups that are currently developing a plan that will be presented in the final meeting on December 8, 2022. It is anticipated that this will launch a multi-year process that will significantly impact the behavioral health services in the County.
For those interested, you can get involved through the Behavioral Health and Suicide Prevention Community Taskforce of Montgomery County Workgroups. Fnd out more and volunteer to become involved using the website https://communityhelp.org/.