Community Relations Philosophy
Collaboration. ColumbiaCare believes that collaboration is a key component in promoting the welfare of persons with mental illness. This principle is built into our agency mission and design. We believe that "community mental health" requires the involvement and support of treatment providers, local government, fellow community members, friends and family.
ColumbiaCare believes that the stigma that comes from fear and misunderstanding can be a barrier to recovery for those who have a mental illness. Likewise, understanding, support and encouragement can be an extremely vital component in client care. In order to best encourage collaboration, we want to acknowledge and address safety concerns, make useful information accessible, express our commitment to protecting the rights of our residents, keep open the lines of communication and ultimately and ideally, have you get involved in a positive way.
Safety. ColumbiaCare is committed to the safety and well-being of both our residents and community members. As we develop residential service programs, we put this statement into action by adhering to a community integration process which includes:
Ensuring appropriate resident placement through careful and appropriate screening and placement procedures;
Carefully designing and building each particular facility with the appropriate level of physical safeguards based on the level of care;
Coordinating with local law enforcement, public officials, partnering provider agencies and interested community members to proactively address emergency response plans which may include instructions such as when and how the general public should communicate concerns, and to whom; when and how staff will report facility incidents to local law enforcement; and how both local law enforcement and ColumbiaCare can best address an issue should one arise in a timely, respectful and responsive manner.
Going above and beyond to recruit and retain highly qualified and professional staff to provide the appropriate level of staff supervision and treatment;
Staying dedicated to the ColumbiaCare mission and ultimate goal of providing quality treatment which "provides residents a pathway to achieving the same things that all humans need to not only feel safe and well taken care of, but to contributeand thrive".
Education, Communication and Outreach. As ColumbiaCare endeavors to develop vital services in various communities, one of the greatest challenges and opportunities is community education, or making information known to the public in such a way that citizens are less likely to feel 'anxious" about sharing the neighborhood with a residential treatment facility for those with mental illness, and become more likely to 'advocate' on behalf of the people living there. Ideally, those who are properly informed and educated about the realities of mental illness have less need to rely on stories they have heard, and will tend not to regard mental illness as it is often spotlighted and misrepresented in the media.
It is understandable that someone without any experience or accurate information might have negative feelings about what they do not understand. We also realize that, even after best efforts are made, there will be citizens who continue to have concerns about having a facility in their neighborhood.
In either case, it is our responsibility and desire to ease tension and overcome objections, and yet continue to move forward with the project at hand.
It is important to mention that ColumbiaCare will not participate in discriminatory housing practices, nor will we deny nor infringe upon our Resident's rights or privacy based on
Americans with Disabilities Act, and/or
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
That being said, ColumbiaCare will provide truthful information about its facilities, service programs and resident selection process when introducing a new residential project to the neighborhood. While there is no need to draw attention to worst-case scenarios, ColumbiaCare builds trust through communication. We take pride in the services we provide to those who both need them and are entitled to them.
Next, ColumbiaCare provides additional education about our company, service programs, facilities, and mental illness in general, through one-on-one conversations, written informational materials, the Community Cares website, and various community meetings and open houses. ColumbiaCare attempts to provide concerned citizens with a better understanding as to the nature of mental illness in its full spectrum; to demonstrate that people with mental illness who live in a community residential setting can function and make valuable contributions to society; and to help people realize that a safe, caring and treatment-oriented atmosphere can help those who suffer from mental illness feel better, and therefore get better.
Involvement. Last but not least, ColumbiaCare offers the opportunity for neighbors and community members to get involved. It is remarkably effective when a concerned citizen gains understanding and then passes it on to another. Advocacy works, and eradicating the stigma around mental illness is truly a community effort that has a positive impact on everyone involved.