How Two Mental Health Centers are Taking a Strengths-Based Approach to Fill Gaps in Social Support

Numerous studies demonstrate that social connectedness has a major impact on mental health and wellness. Our family and friends provide emotional support, connect us with resources and assistance, and help us live healthier lives. That’s why we joined with two mental health centers here in Colorado to begin screening for social connectedness using PARTNERme, our award-winning social screening tool. Here is a quick introduction to our partnership with the Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD) and Jefferson Center for Mental Health (JCMH), along with a few of our early findings from this innovative project. 

About our Mental Health Partners

Jefferson Center is a nonprofit, community-focused mental health care and substance use services, provider. They offer hope and support to individuals and families who are struggling with mental health issues and substance use disorders, providing care to more than 34,000 individuals last year alone.

The Mental Health Center of Denver enables adults to live more fulfilling and productive lives, children to be more resilient, and families to be happier and healthier. Through multiple community sites, mental health providers in several Denver public schools, collaborations with community partnerships, and home-based outreach, they provide treatment, prevention, outreach, and crisis services to children, families, and adults.

We are pleased to be carrying out these projects with the exemplary support of Prime Health Colorado, using funds awarded through the 2020 Prime Health Innovation Summit where we took first place for PARTNERme. They have been a key partner in helping us plan and implement these and several other projects. Click here to watch our award-winning pitch during the summit from Dr. Varda.

How These Mental Health Centers Are Using PARTNERme 

We worked with both mental health centers to craft a screening process that worked best for their counselors and clients. Thanks to PARTNERme’s customizable features, they were both able to create a survey that fit the context of their specific uses, which vary considerably.

For example, Jefferson Center clinicians are using PARTNERme to screen clients and families in their Trauma Systems Therapy, a program for children and young adults, ages 4-21, who have experienced trauma. It addresses both the individual’s emotional needs as well as the social environment in which he or she lives. It is about breaking down barriers between service systems, understanding a client’s symptoms in the context of his or her world, and building on a family’s strengths and dreams.

The Mental Health Center of Denver is integrating the screening with 2Succeed in Education, their psychiatric rehabilitation program. Psychiatric Rehabilitation promotes recovery, full community integration, and improved quality of life for persons who have been diagnosed with any mental health condition that seriously impairs their ability to lead meaningful lives. Education Counselors assist the people they serve in identifying and engaging in the communities and resources of their interest and use PARTNERme to gain insight into an individual’s areas of need concerning social connectedness.

How Does the Screening Work?

In both situations, the PARTNERme screening follows a similar process. Clients are sent a link to an online screening during a zoom visit at home. The tool asks several questions. First, they identify any needs they have from a list, like food or transportation. Next, they use a touch-screen to draw out their personal support network – family and friends who help them with their needs. Third, they indicate if any of their supporters help them with their identified needs and whether any of them coordinate their support. Finally, they answer a few questions about how they feel in terms of their health, loneliness, and social support.

PARTNERme then creates a personal profile for each client that the counselor or clinician can review. It identifies the individual’s most pressing need with the least amount of social support and then helps them generate a community referral to fill the gap in their support. This is what sets PARTNERme apart from other tools: It asks about social strengths in addition to needs, facilitating a strengths-based approach that acknowledges and honors how an individual is already leveraging their network to support themselves. This allows us to build personal resiliency while providing additional targeted support where appropriate.

Our Early Results

While we are still collecting data in the field and analyzing our results, we have already identified several early insights from our work with these partners. Clinicians have gained valuable information about their clients’ perspectives on their health and connectedness, and have begun connecting them to community resources. Staff from both organizations report that PARTNERme has been a valuable asset and we hope to continue our work with these partners into the future. 

As one counselor put it, “I have been having a lot of conversations with my clients about their social support, but PARTNERme has really allowed me to organize my thoughts by visualizing and mapping out their needs and support network.”  

As more clients are screened we will be able to identify patterns in social need and support to help create better strategies for targeted interventions. Learn more about PARTNERme here, or contact our team to discuss how we might partner with your organization to begin screening for social connectedness.

Alex Derr

About the Author: Alex Derr, M.P.A.

Director of Marketing & Communications

Alex joined VNL in 2017, originally supporting our events. He now helps manages our communications and marketing strategy and content development work. Alex creates blogs, infographics, reports, and other content while managing our web and social media presence. He also runs our email marketing campaigns, tracks analytics, and conducts market research to drive our strategy. He supports our entire team with copywriting, graphic design and research, and helps with events, webinars, demos, and other online learning. When he isn’t at work Alex spends his time climbing 14ers (30 done, 28 to go!) and blogging on his own website, The Next Summit Blog.

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