Christine Penney, Vice-President of Community Programs at the Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH), announced today that the hospital is establishing a Mental Health Family Advisory Council.
“This important initiative is being implemented in cooperation with the Cornwall & District Family Support Group,” said Penney. “It is the culmination of two years of bridge-building between the hospital and family caregivers in the region we serve.”
While not a decision-making body, it is anticipated that the CCH’s Mental Health Family Advisory Council will be a strong force for positive change. The Council will have three key mandates:
The first is to be the voice of families from the region who are dealing with a mental illness. As primary caregivers for a loved one with mental health issues, they have firsthand experience with the services available locally and their impact on all family members.
The second is to advocate for enhancements to mental health policies and practices, as they affect clients and families.
And the third is to act in an informal advisory capacity to the CCH’s Senior Administration and Board of Directors.
Operationally, the Council will focus on issues and opportunities that could positively impact clients and their family caregivers. Examples might include improving discharge planning, ensuring smoother transitions back into the community and helping clients and their families obtain the information and support they need to succeed.
“In addition to promoting patient and family recovery,” observes Penney, “it is hoped that these procedural and policy enhancements will also provide benefits to the hospital, by lowering re-admission rates, improving client satisfaction and increasing the frequency of successful outcomes.”
The Mental Health Family Advisory Council will meet in Cornwall and include representation from families, hospital administration, the clinical team and front line staff. And it is with this ‘family’ component that the Council is looking for the public’s help. “If you are a family caregiver with a mentally ill loved one and are interested in exploring membership on the Council,” explains James Joyce, spokesperson for the Cornwall & District Family Support Group, “an application form is available on both the hospital’s web site (www.cornwallhospital.ca) and ours (www.ListenToFamilies.ca).”
This important development in community participation is part of a growing recognition of the benefits that Family Councils and Family Advisory Groups can bring to the mental health sector. The Cornwall & District Mental Health Family Advisory Council plans on being an active member of the Ontario Family Caregivers’ Advisory Network (OFCAN) and participating in its mission to promote the interests of family caregiver groups in mental health services across the province.
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