Past Summit Proceedings 2004

Regaining Relevance: Reinventing Behavioral Health

March 10 - 13, 2004
Eldorado Hotel & Spa Santa Fe, NM
David Shern, Ph.D., Summit 04 Program Chair

By Richard Lippincott, MD, ACMHA Fellow

The AMCHA Summit 04 was designed to work on and about the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health report, with the goal being both critique of the recommendations and development of proposals for action. Thus the design included presentations and small group discussion groups.

The major presenters included:

  • Michael Hogan, Ph.D., Commissioner, Department of Mental Health, Ohio, and Chair of the President's Commission
  • Charles Currie, M.A., A.C. S. W., Administrator, SAMSHA, Department of Health and Human Services
  • Kathryn Power, M.Ed., Director, CMHS
  • Mary Jane England, M.D., President, Regis College


The presentations promoted meaningful discussion within the groups. Focusing upon the commission report, there was explicit recognition of the significant compromise to mental health care: fragmentation of services, stigma, and shift in the locus of the problems and the service delivery /care responsibility. For many the summit the reflection from years passed - "When we know what to do, why do we not do it" And "The system is in shambles" - rang clear again. However, the commission report expressed optimism through the concept of "transformation."

The report emphasized recovery and resilience and proposed the following six goals to enhance the transformation:

1. Education Americans to understand that mental health is essential to overall health
2. Energize mental health care by inclusion of families and consumers of services
3. Eliminate Mental health service disparities
4. Improve access to mental health screening across the age spectrum
5. Implement evidence-based services to promote excellence
6. Increase use of technology to improve access to mental health services

Through presentation, SAMHSA representatives made it clear that transformation demanded attention to "policy, funding, and practice," not just a belief system. The good news was contained in proposed money to initiate state incentive grants for the transformation. Charles Currie announced a transformation team to be led by Kathryn Powers that will be responsible for a working "to do" list.

At the same time, there was recognition of the years facing many of the same issues, and the problems of politics, attitudes, bureaucracies, and "human nature" in reaching real change. Additional presentation detailed these concepts and proposals, stimulating significant discussion.

In the wrap-up sessions, there was emphasis on looking at our mental health system in new ways, new product development, accountability shifts, and the emphasis that health is a basic human right. The committees worked with this spirit and defined the primary recommendations.

1. Implementation is the key. We know what the barriers are, we know what to do for services, but we do not seem to know how to make the transitions called for in the President's Commission report.
2. Pay attention to projects that show evidence of transformation. Collaborate with programs that have family and consumer involvement, are community-based, culturally relevant and focused upon improving services.
3. Acknowledge the importance of recovery by aggressively promoting outcomes and real-life quality such as friends, housing and work.
4. Mental health transition may involve a change in thinking, i.e., "Equality opportunity for health is a basic human right," and "Healthcare coverage is a right for all." Basically, separation of behavioral health from general health is not a good idea.

Conclusion: The discussions, presentation and consensus at Summit 04 has provided the framework for the ACMHA Summit 05, entitled "Tracking the Transformation," to be held March 30 - April 2, 2005 at the Eldora do Hotel, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Summit 05 will examine what individuals, organizations (public and private), coalitions, state and federal governments and others had done in the 20 months since the release of the President's Commission report to transform the behavioral Health system.