Lafayette, Indiana – A unique event, recently held by the North Central Legislative Forum Committee (NCLFC), invited elected officials to participate in a mental health simulation.
Event creator and participants
The NCLFC is a group made up of several local mental health organizations and advocates, such as Willowstone Family Services; Valley Oaks Health; Bauer Family Resources and many more.
The event, which took place last week, consisted of elected officials, such as Indiana State Representative Sheila Klinker and Mayor Bob Goldsmith, participating in a simulation where each participant is given a profile based on real, local mental health patients, followed by a search for the right person. Health providers for their own condition.
How did the mental health simulation work?
Added factors such as ‘life events’, waiting times and simulating mental disorder symptoms are included in the event to make the scenarios more realistic.
Each profile rated itself on a scale of 1-10 on the Mental Health Continuity Scale. This is a chart with one to two listed as mental health crises and nine and 10 rated as healthy and functioning normally.
Gavin’s profile was shared among the participants, one of whom was Goldsmith.
“What I found is starting with one (on a continuum), trying suicide, not getting a job, not having support… you’re constantly moving from medication to appointment, and from medication to appointment.”
Participants will, based on their profile needs, commute from stations set up throughout the Howarth Center in an effort to find the appropriate care they need. Different profiles ended up with different results, with some raising the overall mental health continuity score, and others ending up lowering it.
Klinker had a “Burt” profile.
“I have a wife and two kids,” Klinker read from her submitted profile, “but I have MS. In retirement, I thought I’d 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.” of time.
“So I went to several caregivers, Valley Oaks, I was going to have to wait a while…”
Klinker’s simulated scenario ends with Burt going to a private practice doctor and paying out-of-pocket medical expenses in order to get medical help sooner.
Klinker’s profile started at number seven on a continuous scale, where he felt “general and reversible malaise” and ended up at level four, experiencing “severe and persistent functional impairment”, due to the financial costs of receiving medical care and limited medical insurance acceptance rates for some therapists.
Other elements of the event based on profiles included simulating schizophrenia and how this affects daily life and access to mental health help, the mental impact of spending time in prison, and the long waiting times that can occur when waiting for appointments; Sometimes months later.
The general objectives of the simulation
Kulkarni discussed with Journal & Courier some of the main objectives of this mental health simulation.
“The group chose an experiential exercise designed to facilitate a deeper understanding of the complexities of the mental health care system, and opportunities for improvement through legislation at the local, state and federal levels,” Kulkarni said.
This goal of working towards changes in our current mental health care system is something that has been advanced by the event, according to Jenny Murtaugh, CEO of Willowstone Family Services.
“That was really the hope that this experiential learning could be really inspiring and not just informing… and I think maybe we did,” Murtaugh said.
Goldsmiths call to action
Goldsmith thought about what came out of the experience, too.
“I really enjoyed it,” Goldsmith said. “It’s amazing to see what people have to go through when they’re on the street. A lot of them, and the person you were (in the simulation), you do it yourself. You don’t have a trip, you don’t have the resources or money (or insurance).”
With the goal of working for legislative change to the current mental health care system, Goldsmith presented what he is able and willing to do to work—particularly in terms of appropriate care contact—to achieve this goal.
“I want our medical provider to direct our personnel, and our inmates, to appropriate care,” Goldsmith said, with the right company. But after making sure that these companies are on board, and that this communication is between our medical team and another company.
“I think it (currently) is, but it can always get better.”
More light on the objective of the simulation
Here are a few of the goals included as part of a mental health simulation:
- Alternative Care Support – Dismissal of people with mental illness from prison
- Prevention Matters – Mental health legislation and resources available to all community organizations when possible
- Legislation to improve the credential and insurance issuance process (that) would mitigate issues limiting access
- Access Telehealth Issues – Ensure telehealth remains an option (and supported) for broadband access in all rural communities across the state
Margaret Kristofferson is a reporter for the Journal and Courier. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MargaretJC2.