“Gatekeepers” to Mental Health Care Asked to Remove Barriers, Make Improvements

A report released today by Spectrum Institute calls attention to the consequences to adults with developmental disabilities when they do not receive needed mental health services in a timely manner. It is being sent to those who control access to such services for this vulnerable population – “gatekeepers” – with a recommendation that they examine any policies and procedures that may impair prompt and equal access to effective therapies for these adults.

“Consequences: A Report on the Adverse Effects of Delayed or Denied Mental Health Services to Adults with Developmental Disabilities,” is being distributed to parents, primary care physicians, guardians, judges, court-appointed attorneys, disability rights and disability service organizations, and self-advocates. It explains that mental health therapy may not only be needed to address the issues associated with the developmental disability itself, but is often needed to treat mental illnesses or trauma caused by adverse childhood events (ACEs), crime victimization, or abuse. The report is online at: https://spectruminstitute.org/consequences-report.pdf

The delay or denial of prompt therapy can have devastating effects on the individual, with spill-over consequences to those in their immediate circle of support. There can also be negative effects financially to health plans and benefits programs when cost-effective mental health therapy is withheld, resulting in higher-cost medical services that could have been avoided. Effects to the individual can include depression, anxiety, medical illnesses, suicide, drug and alcohol addition, premature death, and interference with the ability to socialize, hold a job, or attend school.

The report also reminds gatekeepers that willful or negligent failure to secure necessary mental health services can have legal ramifications for them. Such failure may run afoul of state and federal nondiscrimination laws, laws prohibiting abuse or neglect of dependent adults, and professional licensing regulations. Thus, it is in the self-interest of gatekeepers to be pro-active in spotting the need for mental health services for developmentally-disabled adults with whom they interact or for whom they have responsibility.

The report, nearly a year in the making, reviewed many published research papers on this subject and gleaned the most important information from those studies. It was also sent to a panel of experts for review prior to its release. Excerpts of some reviews of the report are attached.

“We encourage those who care about the well-being of adults with developmental disabilities to read the report and take our recommendations to heart. We encourage you to contact us so that we can build a broad coalition of support for improved access to mental health services for this population,” said Christina Baldwin, Director of the Mental Health Project of Spectrum Institute.

Spectrum Institute is a nonprofit corporation with federal tax-exempt status. The organization engages in research, education, and advocacy on disability rights, conservatorship and guardianship reform, and improved access to mental health services for adults with developmental disabilities.

Contact: Tina Baldwin, Director, Mental Health Project
(208) 596-2471 / [email protected]

The core research paper for the report was written by UCLA student Emmi Deckard. The report was edited by Thomas F. Coleman and Christina Ann Baldwin. Baldwin is the Director of the Mental Health Project. Coleman is Executive and Legal Director of Spectrum Institute.

Click here to read reviews of this report.

UPDATE:  June 13, 2022 Presentation to Washington State Guardianship Board

Tina Baldwin

Spectrum Institute made a presentation to the Certified Professional Guardianship and Conservatorship Board today.  Tina Baldwin and Tom Coleman discussed the Consequences Report and asked the board to develop standards to improve mental health access for protected persons in Washington State. The Chair of the Board informed us that the Chief Justice had forwarded our letter to her and asked the Board to review our concerns.  To view the letter sent to the Chief Justice, click here.  For a written copy of Tina’s presentation, click hereFor Tom’s presentation, click hereFor a handout on problems with the ADA process in Washington courts, click here.

For recommended next steps for the board, click here.