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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    House Document No. 47

    Document Title
    Consumer and Family Participation Study

    Department of Mental Health; Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services

    Enabling Authority
    HJR 713 (Regular Session, 1993)

    Executive Summary
    House Joint Resolution 713 (Appendix A), adopted by the 1993 General Assembly, requested the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services to convene a task force to explore various approaches to increasing consumer and family representation on community services boards (CSBs).

    The Department assembled a study committee of 20 consumers, advocates, and providers to address the charge in HJR 713. The Committee decided to expand its exploration to include other ways, in addition to greater representation on CSBs, to increase consumer and family participation in and involvement with the services system. The Committee met three times, engaging in open exchanges of many different points of view in a spirit of reasonableness and responsible compromise, to produce the following recommendations.


    1. The following definitions of consumers should be included in 37.1-1 of the Code of Virginia:

    • "A primary consumer is a current or former direct recipient of public or private mental health, mental retardation or substance abuse treatment, training or habilitation services."

    • "A secondary consumer is an immediate family member of a primary consumer or the principal caregiver of a primary consumer. A principal caregiver acts in the place of an immediate family member, including other relatives and foster care providers, but does not have a proprietary interest in the care of the primary consumer."

    2. All primary and secondary consumer representatives, as defined in this report, shall identify themselves as consumers to the appointing authority and the CSB board of directors, without specifying a particular disability (mental illness, mental retardation or substance abuse) identity associated with their consumer status. Consumers shall not be required to identify themselves beyond this level (e.g. with a general public declaration) unless they desire to do so voluntarily.

    3. 37.1-195 of the Code should be amended to include a strong expectation that consumers will be appointed to community services boards. The following sentence should be added at the end of the first paragraph of 37.1-195:

    "Appointments to the community services board shall be broadly representative of the community, to include Primary and secondary consumers as defined in 37.1-1."

    4. The Committee also recommends the following other ways to encourage and support increased consumer participation on and involvement with community services boards:

    • consider expanding the size of community services boards from the current five to 16 members to seven to 18 members;

    • the State Board should insure that the Department and CSBs, in conjunction with consumer and advocacy organizations, provide education and training about serving on boards to consumers, family members, other principal caregivers, and advocacy groups;

    • the Department and the Virginia Association of CSBs should identify several CSBs that have been successful in having consumers appointed and publicize this information;

    • the State Board should urge CSBs to develop and use advisory boards or committees in meaningful ways to increase opportunities for consumers to participate;

    • the State Board and Department should encourage local governments to advertise and solicit nominations for CSB appointments from consumers and advocacy groups;

    • the Department, with the Virginia Association of CSBs, should develop and provide orientation and training activities for members of CSB boards of directors;

    • CSB boards of directors should meet regularly with consumer groups to develop and maintain communication and exchange information;

    • CSB boards of directors should provide opportunities for consumers to function as apprentice or trainee board members in order to establish a pool of experienced potential appointees;

    • CSB boards of directors should offer experienced board members to serve as mentors for new members;

    • boards shall provide appropriate accommodation when requested by members;

    • the State Board should promulgate a strong policy on consumer involvement with and participation on CSBs;

    • the Department and CSBs should also consider the following strategies:

    * employ consumers,
    * conduct consumer surveys,
    * train staff and CSB board members, and
    * use focus groups, public hearings, and forums.