Last fall, The Guild posted a practicum project opportunity with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, focusing on gaps in psychiatric services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) experiencing mental health crises. Practicum projects help advance the work of the host organization as well as provide a real-world learning experience for a Master's student.
The Guild selected Andrew Chun for the practicum project. Andrew is currently taking a year off from Harvard Medical School to earn his Master of Public Health (MPH) degree so that he can develop the skills needed to close the treatment gap in mental health services. He is very interested in community mental health and plans to become a psychiatrist.
His project, Crisis Care for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, sought to identify opportunities to improve care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) when they experience mental health crises. His work included:
- Initiating a needs assessment for a program to address Guild, state, and regional gaps in psychiatric services for individuals with IDD experiencing mental health crises.
- Developing a review of current models of care to identify best practices.
To evaluate the current landscape of crisis care for individuals with IDD, Andrew centered his approach on a mix of secondary data, peer-reviewed literature, key informant interviews, and internal records to determine how crisis care for individuals with IDD can be improved for students and residents at the Guild, as well as in Massachusetts and the New England region.
The most important findings of this needs assessment included:
- Diagnoses of IDD are increasing in frequency, but the availability of specialized mental health services for this population remains limited.
- ED boarding is a significant challenge for individuals with IDD.
- A number of factors influence the frequency of mental health crises.
- An intermediate level of care is needed between residential group homes and inpatient units, which may be respite, Community Based Acute Treatment (CBAT), or a long-term stabilization unit.
- A significant number of youth with IDD require more intensive long-term settings than the Guild can provide.
- Mental health services are especially limited for young adults with IDD.
- There is a growing body of research on effective interventions for individuals with IDD who experience mental health crises, and several models of care exist.
- Data related to mental health crises at the Guild should be tracked.
The assessment concluded that “ultimately, individuals with IDD currently do not receive the care that they deserve when they experience mental health crises. Although the Guild, Massachusetts, and the New England region have many strengths in supporting this population, more work must be done to fully meet their needs during crisis.”
The Guild will continue to evaluate how it can refine its internal services to meet the need for acute services for individuals with IDD.
We are grateful to Andrew for his work and wish to congratulate him on recently being selected to receive the Sun Memorial Award from The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The award is in memory of Dr. Fang-Ching Sun, MPH ’84, who had a brief but exemplary career improving the health and well-being of underserved populations in the rural mountains of his native Taiwan.