Knowledge exchange and practice collaboration in community based mental health

The Caledon Institute’s report Knowledge Exchange for Mental Health by Sherri Torjman and Anne Makhoul,  (2013) examines provincial policy strategy actions and common challenges to advance mental health practice through the lens of knowledge exchange.  It looks at the areas of: responsiveness, resources, and governance and accountability.

on managing knowledge resources for prevention and support–

… Preventive interventions comprise an essential component of the broader mental health field. The challenge arises from the fact that this activity consists of many different interventions which relate to, but are not typically situated in, mental health. Preventive measures involve initiatives related to cultural expression, recreation, youth engagement, family support, community-building events and other areas that are not billed as mental health per se but that contribute immeasurably to positive well-being.

It is not clear if and how the mental health strategies link to these other areas. Most of these interventions are housed in departments outside the one primarily responsible for the mental health strategy in that jurisdiction. Many are initiated by local governments and the voluntary sector. How do provinces and territories ensure that their community building initiatives, which contribute significantly to good mental health, capture and relate to efforts that are outside the core department and even external to government?

The positive note is that several jurisdictions are providing support to voluntary organizations to carry out much of this mental health promotion activity. But there are questions as to whether the community-building efforts to which the mental health frameworks refer are actually part of a broader strategy. This work may simply take the form of short-term grant funding rather than an explicitly coordinated effort in which the many constituent parts work strategically and coherently toward a common goal. …

from page 31

on knowledge exchange and governance —

….In fact, most provinces and territories recognize the need for a joined-up approach and have proposed various ways to effect this coordination. The extent to which this objective is working well in practice is unknown, given current reporting requirements that typically involve ‘vertical’ accountability up and down the chain rather than ‘horizontal’ accountability through joint initiatives.

A major question has to do with how jurisdictions know that their continuum of services is well coordinated in practice. Are they asking for feedback from individuals and their families with direct experience in the mental health care system? How do provinces and territories ascertain that the multiple components of their mental health systems are actually lining up a coordinated way? From whose perspective is effective collaboration being assessed?

Knowledge exchange around all these questions may enhance the ability to respond to the coordination challenge. …

from page 36


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