With a health, pandemic, lock-down, and climate change inspired hiatus so far in 2020, I’m back! After doing exploratory data analysis with a few datasets, that can be found here, I took a look at SAMHSA data from California. What is SAMHSA? Wikipedia defines it as:
… a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is charged with improving the quality and availability of treatment and rehabilitative services in order to reduce illness, death, disability, and the cost to society resulting from substance abuse and mental illnesses.
After reading through its Uniform Reporting System (i.e. URS) reports for California, it’s amazing just how much data is available (e.g. 2019) and reported by the organization to the public! The report were quite helpful to understand the mental health system better than what I understood it myself through anecdote (which, I find, is commonly the case). What was I able to find?
Namely, a few things. First, SAMHSA lists major outcomes across what we have known, and is supported by the entire community, at large in mental health: housing, jail, employment, and homelessness. Not suicide though…which was perplexing. There’s a lot of demographics data and the perspective of the organization to treat. They deploy community utilization, along with hospitals, to support the design of a system that is focused on crisis management rather than a holistic phase-based approach towards positive outcomes. In my personal experience, this is accurate. I’ve tried to get back to the working world for years and received great support and care, though I’ve been frustrated with my job search efforts (and my inability to listen). The URS reports back it up with “supported employment” as something that’s tracked and only shows 100’s of individuals in the system getting this help compared to the 100,000’s in the system at any given point in California.
Further, in recent years (better charts soon!):
The most interesting point? The outcomes are bifurcating since 2015. Employment increased by 34.1%, homelessness increased by 51.34%, and individuals in jail decreased by 31.7%. Though, supported employment has largely flat-lined. I don’t know what’s happening. With that said, if you don’t know the cause of your illness and you’re largely on your own to find life (maybe sometimes succeeding), what do you do? I think you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Remember: the mental health system, based on the data and data reporting itself, suggests its focus is to prevent crises. Not to create and propel positive outcomes. I hope this changes; I’m a proponent of supported employment as I’ve tried it for myself. It would be great to have Internet Technology companies look in this area and find ways to cost-reduce and provide greater margins to spend towards forward-facing endeavors in the SSA and SAMHSA to help the entire system become lean.
Personally, if I knew I was on my own to find work a few years ago (I’m in year 5+), my goals/strategy would be different in years 1-2. Get healthy first to be productive to my family and friends. Find any way to listen to advice from family, friends, and care workers. Find any job and try to hold it down. Also, apply to Social Security Disability Insurance as quickly as possible. There’s no cohesive, supported help to propel that works consistently right now. The Californian system looks like its trying its best though.