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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

National Council, NASMHPD Host Congressional Briefings on Early Intervention Psychosis

May 14, 2015 | Uncategorized | Comments
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On Tuesday, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) cohosted two congressional staff briefings to raise awareness of the need for investing in early intervention psychosis programs. Each year, 100,000 young people will develop psychosis, with only a small fraction receiving the comprehensive, coordinated care that could prevent a lifetime of disability.

Two of the panelists highlighted programs experiencing great success in their states: Maine and Oregon. First, Dr. William McFarlane, Director of Psychiatric Research at Maine Medical Center discussed the successes of the Portland Identification and Early Referral (PIER) program in Maine. The program is creating a population-wide system of early detection and preventive intervention in Greater Portland, ME. Without education and adequate funding for early onset psychosis, there is an average delay of one to three years between the first onset of symptoms and treatment. These early treatment models hold out the prospect of sustaining educational and employment prospects for persons who would otherwise experience highly debilitating, life-long psychiatric illnesses.

In Oregon, Ms. Tamara Sale discussed her organization, the Early Assessment and Support Alliance (EASA) Center for Excellence at Portland State University. EASA is identifying young people at the early stages of psychosis and providing easily accessible care based on proven treatment methods. Starting as just a five-county program in 2001, the program went statewide in 2007. Last year, over 550 young people and their families received early intervention for psychosis in Oregon.

“Every week of the year in this country over a thousand people develop psychosis for the first time, most often as teenagers or young adults,” said Ms.Sale, Director of the EASA Center for Excellence. “I am convinced that the main thing standing in the way of people in similar situations throughout the country is that we’ve made it extraordinarily difficult to access care, and until now, we have not made a commitment to making the right care available.”

In 2014, Congress created a new five percent set-aside in the Mental Health Block Grant, requiring states to fund First Episode Psychosis programs in partnership with state mental health authorities nationwide. This set-aside was included in the final FY2015 budget as well as the President’s FY2016 proposed budget. Despite the large overall figure – $24.2 million – the specific amount of funding allocated to states can range from $3 million to just $2,500.

The rest of the panel included: Paolo Del Vecchio, Director of the Center for Mental Health Services at SAMHSA; and Meghan Dennison, participant in the PIER program.