In 1993, MHA introduced “Connections”, a comprehensive and user friendly guide to mental health services in Broward County. “Connections” has become an essential community resource that is utilized by providers, case managers, the Courts, families and consumers. More than 10,000 copies are updated and distributed annually. Grant funds from Broward County and DCF/ADM and proceeds of private agency sales have allowed Connections to be offered at no cost to primary consumers, families and key community agencies.
Public Education and advocacy were the Association’s sole services until the late 1970’s when, in an effort to promote quality of life services and supports, MHA initiated direct non-clinical services. Public and legislative advocacy, dormant in the early 1980’s, were revived in 1987 when the Broward Mental Illness Coalition (later re-titled Advocates United) was established at MHA. The Coalition developed an annual legislative forum that stimulated the community’s mental health advocacy interests and initiated “consumer voice” (persons with mental illness speaking out in self-advocacy). MHA volunteers and staff pursued and maintained community involvement and advocacy influence by assuming responsible roles in planning and advocacy. Similar roles continued with MHA represented on the DCF-SAMH Substance Abuse and Mental Health Advisory Council, the ADM Planning Council, the County’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition (advisory to the Broward County Human Services Department) and numerous sub-committees and work groups that guide policy for this community. Currently, MHA continues to participate in the ADM Planning Council, Community Solutions, Inc. (a local provider network) and numerous other local groups having influence over the system of care.
In 1991, MHA expanded and formalized its INFORMATION and REFERRAL activities, a core service since the organization’s founding, by publishing the first DIRECTORY OF PROFESSIONAL MEMBERS. The Directory offered the first verified and documented source of information on behavioral health professional providers in the County. Its success has resulted in updated publications and an expanded outreach through MHA’s website.
In 2003, a grant from Broward County allowed MHA to introduce “Connections for Kids.” That resource guide, a mainstay for parents seeking help for younger children with behavioral challenges and for community providers who work with those children, their families was unfortunately discontinued in 2011 with the elimination of funding. Children’s resource information is now included in the “adult” Connections.
Public education, particularly as a means to eliminate stigma, is also a core service of MHA. Staff and volunteers participate as presenters at community forums and are available to educate groups and organizations about mental health as a desirable goal for everyone. In 1992, the Mental Health America (then titled National Mental Health Association) named Broward County as a pilot site for its National Public Education Campaign on Clinical Depression. That initiative expanded to include resources, information and programming on Anxiety Disorders, Children’s Disorders, Eating Disorders, Dual-diagnosis issues and Consumer initiatives. The campaign educated thousands of local residents on the symptoms and treatment opportunities for these prevalent but treatable disorders. It also challenges the community to recognize the humanity of persons diagnosed with mental illnesses. The campaign has helped to challenge attitudes and save lives.
MHASEFL has been selected by the National Institute of Mental Health as the Outreach Partner for the State of Florida. The NIMH Outreach Partnership Program is vital to NIMH’s efforts to deliver science-based information to communities across the country. Specifically, the Program is designed to:
Science-based literature on a wide range of mental health topics is available at no cost. In-service trainings can also be arranged. Call MHASEFL or email your request: firstname.lastname@example.org
MHA supports the professional community by providing State of Florida approved CONTINUING EDUCATION PROGRAMS (CEU) opportunities. Since 1986, MHA has been an authorized source for Continuing Education working as an independent provider and through collaborative partnerships with other community providers. A five year contract with Broward County resulted in a Training Program for publicly resourced agencies that included development of resources for INTEGRATED SERVICES delivery to persons with co-occurring mental health and substance disorders, an ALL STAR LEADERSHIP ACADEMY for representatives of human services provider agencies and a CONSUMER LEADERSHIP ACADEMY that works to build capacity for future self-advocacy initiatives by persons served. Benefits of these programs are felt throughout the system of care where Integrated Services evolved to become the BROWARD CARES Workgroup and the Leadership program, now funded via a grant from American Express, continues to build strengths for the community.