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Not enough support of consumer role in mental health services, Hamilton report.

HAMILTON -- Mental health services may have to end the involvement of consumers and families, if increases to their base budgets are not approved, says a report from the Hamilton District Health Council.

The Council's report, Consumer and Family Involvement: Findings from a Survey of Mental Health and Addictions Programs in Hamilton, indicates that consumer involvement "promotes hope and inspiration for both staff and clients, improves communication and helps to challenge 'us and them' attitudes." However, these programs have a cost.

The survey found that:

* 70 per cent of the agencies reported consumer membership on their agency Boards of Directors or Advisory Committees;

* consumer composition of the boards ranging from 10 to 100 per cent, the average being 29 per cent;

* a majority indicated that consumers and/or their family members were involved in some aspect of program planning and delivery; were involved in activities that include public education, publishing a newsletter or fundraising or buddy systems.

The benefits stemming from consumers and/or their families involvement in the agencies fell under four key themes, including:

* improved outcomes for consumers,

* increased agency knowledge from consumer experiences,

* valuable feedback for monitoring program effectiveness, and

* public education with consumers acting as ambassadors to the community by providing education and helping to de-stigmatize mental illness."

Agencies report a number of barriers and challenges to maintaining the involvement of consumers and families, including insufficient funding, time restraints, the need for increased training and limitations imposed on agencies by collective agreements.

For many agencies, the need for increases to their budgets is crucial to maintaining consumer and family involvement.

As well, they note that participation by consumers on their boards and committees is also limited by personal financial need because "the cost of volunteering can be prohibitive, and many agencies and self-help/peer support groups lack finances to support individual involvement" though reimbursing out-of-pocket expenses.

The report is based on a survey of 27 community and hospital-based mental health and addiction programs in Hamilton.
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Title Annotation:Health
Publication:Community Action
Date:Oct 27, 2003
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