There is not one state in our nation that serves all of the needs of its citizens with serious mental and emotional disorders. There is not one state that has sufficient financial and human resources to meet the growing demand for services, nor is there one state whose systems of care stand as examples of best practices in every dimension, and in every respect.
No matter where we live, there's work to be done.
St. Luke's Charitable Health Trust commissioned this study of Arizona's public behavioral health system to serve as a template for our program initiative in mental health over the next five to 10 years. We didn't want to fund one more study trashing the system, nor did we want to fund a white wash that would be politely received and end up sitting on a shelf somewhere. We wanted to tell the truth, but a truth that can emerge from the strengths already present in Arizona's public and private systems of care. We want to encourage positive change in these systems, not tear them down.
We've already learned some valuable lessons: First, no matter what you say or do, someone is going to take exception to it. Second, what we mean by "best practice" in mental health is a moving target. It's better to create a climate that fosters innovation, partnership and change, and not get hung up on definitions and structural issues. Third, contrary to what one occasionally hears on the legislative floor or in the media, Arizona's behavioral health system has numerous exemplary practices and a core group of dedicated, committed and thoroughly professional staff. Add the necessary financial resources and leadership, and we will continue to move into the light of care, support and recovery for persons with mental illnesses and disorders.
This study is based on a review of emerging standards and best practices in mental health drawn from a growing professional literature and experiences from across the country. It is drawn from interviews and focus groups with Arizonans both within and without the public behavioral health system, and as such reflects a diversity of views. For those who want to learn more about emerging practices in mental health, we will publish a summary Best Practices Addendum to this report, which will be available on the Mental Health Dissemination Network of Arizona's web site at www.azmentalhealth.org in early 2000. You will also find there literally hundreds of links to best practices in mental health throughout the country.
Mental health will be among the top critical public health issues worldwide in the early 21st century. We know too much and have come too far to stay any longer in the shadow of false stigma and defeatist expectations. Join us. Together we will move into the light.
Roger A. Hughes, Ph.D.
St. Luke's Charitable Health Trust