Kentucky had settled into the month of October in 2010, when I arrived there to attend the 12th annual CFHA conference. It was not only my first visit to Kentucky but also my first attendance at the conference and I was ready for an adventure. I expected to hear, see and learn much that was different from my home city of Halifax Nova Scotia.
People spoke with a distinct drawl that was friendly; the skyscrapers loomed; the city blocks hosted an interesting array of monuments and storefronts; the downtown core was both inviting and somewhat dangerous in its layout; and I plunged into this journey of discovery.
I sat with three hundred and fifty other participants at the conference and happened to be the sole visitor from Canada. The candid, direct styles of the keynote speakers and the bold imagination in their ideas grabbed my interest. The sessions were equally rich and thought provoking. I found myself volunteering my comments, answering questions, getting easily acquainted with other participants and even hosted a lunchtime discussion on Compassion Satisfaction!
The members of the CFHA board and their executive team appeared genuinely interested to make my acquaintance and learn about their sister organization in Canada (National Working group on Shared Mental Health Care). And to top it all off, they invited me to join their membership committee, so that we could work towards strengthening ties between our respective organizations. Before too long, I was invited to write a Blog for the CFHA (V-Forming Healthcare), they joined forces with the planning committee in Halifax which was organizing the 12th Canadian Conference on Collaborative Mental Health Care, an entire month was dedicated to blogs written by Canadian authors and they sent email invitations to their membership, promoting the Halifax conference.
Never before, had I experienced such like-minded dedication to promote, advocate and develop the concepts embedded in Collaborative Mental Health care; and it was happening to benefit both Canadians and Americans.
In Canada, the essence of Collaborative Care is currently being embedded in many provincial re-organized health systems as well as the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It is defined in the newly launched 2011 position paper from the Canadian Psychiatric Association and College of Family Physicians of Canada as Mental Health, addiction and primary care practitioners working together, with people and their family members, to ensure that an individual reaches the services they need, when they need them, with a minimum of inconvenience. It is;
- Built on personal contacts
- Based on mutual respect and trust
- Based on effective practices
- Responsive to changing needs with openness to new ideas
- Shaped by context, culture, local resources, shared goals & local solutions
- Contingent upon five key components – Effective communication, Consultation, Coordination, Co-location and Integration
In Canada, this model of care started with psychiatrists and family physicians working together to provide care differently than established traditional models in the mid-1990s. In 2005, this model was expanded to involve 12 other partners in the work of the CCMHI (Canadian Collaborative Mental Health Initiative); pharmacists, nurses, occupational therapists, social workers, psychologists, dieticians and first voice/consumers/people with lived experience.
Meanwhile, in March of 1993, 15 colleagues from the fields of family medicine and family therapy met to develop a better healthcare paradigm in the USA. This model aimed to address pressing clinical and economic problems.
Naming their vision the "collaborative family healthcare model", they formed an organization to bring together those interested in this innovative approach. In July 1995, CFHA held its first national conference in Washington, D.C. It was well attended and received glowing reviews. The Collaborative Family Healthcare Coalition was up and running.
CFHA is a member-based, member-driven collaborative organization. Collaboration isn't just a word in the organization's name; it defines who we are, how we interact with each other and other organizations. We believe deeply that collaboration is an essential element necessary for re-visioning healthcare, specifically, and society, generally.
CFHA promotes a comprehensive and cost-effective model of healthcare delivery that integrates mind and body, individual and family, patients, providers and communities.CFHA achieves this mission through education, training, partnering, consultation, research and advocacy. We not only host a leading-edge conference every year, we also are active in every other aspect of healthcare change: development, design, delivery and assessment.
October 2011 found me in Philadelphia at the CFHA's 13th annual conference. A new city to discover, new colleagues to hear from, a new set of keynote speakers to present material to evoke and provoke new directions in evolving models of care. I presented the 2011 Canadian position paper alongside Dr. Roger Bland one of the other co-authors, and was one of five Canadians at the conference. The Canadian organization and its work were presented as part of the exhibitors, mirroring CFHA's presence at the Halifax conference earlier in the summer.
Collaborative practice is about how we practice together….how we treat each other….how we benefit from each other's perspective and the partnership that we bring to the table so that people and their families are served to their benefit. It is different from traditional team based approaches. To truly "experience” what it feels like, one has to be open to the ideas and diversity of people involved in this model of care.
Your attendance at the annual CFHA and Canadian conferences could serve as a starting point for you. Robust information and the evidence base for this model of care are available on their websites: cfha.net and shared-care.ca. Consider looking at the material on these sites. Consider attending the conferences. Consider these alternative models of care in your practice of primary care and mental health care, and imagine what it could be like……..and you may find yourself in Vancouver, British Columbia in the summer of 2012 and Austin Texas in the fall of 2012…..ready for an adventure……and return awash with new ideas that have fuelled your hidden passion to work collaboratively….and you will have found what now energizes my daily practice of medicine!
Ajantha Jayabarathan (AJ) is a Family Doctor practicing in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is well recognized in the Atlantic region of Canada due to her columns on television. She is an Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University and co-chaired the organization of the 12th Canadian Conference on Collaborative Mental Health care in Halifax 2011. She also co-leads the advocacy coalition, Healthynovascotians.com
The view expressed in the blogs and comments should be understood as the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association (CFHA). No information on this blog will be understood as official. CFHA offers this blog site for individuals to express their personal and professional opinions regarding their own independent activities and interests.