As anyone who follows me on Facebook knows, I get around. In the past few months, I visited Australia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark (to name but a few countries) as well as criss-crossed the United States. If I were asked to sum up the state of public behavioral health agencies in a single word, the word–with very few exceptions–would be: desperate. Between the unfunded mandates and funding cutbacks, agencies are struggling.
Not long ago, I blogged about the challenges facing agencies and providers in Ohio. In addition to reductions in staffing, those in public behavioral health are dealing with increasing oversight and regulation, rising caseloads, unrelenting paperwork, and demands for accountability. The one bright spot in this otherwise frightening climate is: outcomes. Several counties in Ohio have adopted the ORS and SRS and been using them to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of behavioral health services.
I’ve been working with the managers and providers in both Marion and Crawford counties for a little over two years. Last year, the agencies endured significant cuts in funding. As a result, they were forced to eliminate a substantial number of positions. Needless to say, it was a painful process with no upsides–except that, as a result of using the measures, the dedicated providers had so improved the effectiveness and efficiency of treatment they were able to absorb the loss of staff without having to cut on services to clients.
The agencies cite four main findings resulting from the work we’ve done together over the last two years. In their own words:
- Use of FIT has enabled us to be more efficient, which is particularly important given Ohio’s economic picture and the impact of State budget cuts. Specifically, FIT is enabling service providers and supervisors to identify consumers much earlier who are not progressing in the treatment process. This allows us to change course sooner when treatment is not working, to know if changes work, to identify consumers in need of a different level of care, etc. FIT also provides data on which the provider and consumer can base decisions about the intensity of treatment and treatment continuation (i.e. when to extend time between services or when the episode of service should end). In short, our staff and consumers are spending much less time “spinning their wheels” in unproductive activities. As a result, we have noticed more “planned discharges versus clients just dropping out of treatment.
- FIT provides aggregate effect size data for individual service providers, for programs, and for services, based on data from a valid and reliable outcome scale. Effect sizes are calculated by comparing our outcome data to a large national data base. Progress achieved by individual consumers is also compared to this national data base. For the first time, we can “prove” to referral sources and funding sources that our treatment works, using data from a valid and reliable scale. Effect size data also has numerous implications for supervision, and supervision sessions are more focused and productive.
- Use of the SRS (session rating scale) is helping providers attend to the therapeutic alliance in a much more deliberate manner. As a result, we have noticed increased collaboration between consumer and provider, less resistance and more partnership, and greater openness from consumers about their treatment experience. Consumer satisfaction surveying has revealed increased satisfaction by consumers. The implications for consumers keeping appointments and actually implementing what is learned in treatment are clear. The Session Rating Scale is also yielding some unexpected feedback from clients and has caused us to rethink what we assume about clients and their treatment experience.
- Service providers, especially those who are less experienced, appear to be more confident and purposeful when providing services. The data provides a basis for clinical work and there is much less ‘flying by the seat of their pants.’”Inspiring, eh? And now, listen to Community Counseling Services Director Bob Moneysmith and Crawford-Marion ADAMH Board Associate Director Shirley Galdys describe the implementation: