Mechanics of Being Client-First in Community Mental Health

Being client-first in community mental health means prioritizing the needs and quality of treatment of clients above all else. This much is self-explanatory, but incorporating a client-first mindset in a community mental health setting can be complicated. In practice it goes well beyond the points of contact - scheduling, direct care, follow-up, etc - to program design, staffing, administration, IT and operations.

The intake process alone involves not just screening and identifying appropriate clients but a knowledge of your reimbursement contracts, the caseloads and training of practitioners, the composition and readiness of your support team.

The further you move from direct care, the easier it is to lose sight of what it means to be client-first. Consider some common issues related to IT. Does your team have reliable access to your electronic systems for communication and reporting? Do you have network redundancies in place for mission-critical applications like telepsychiatry and EHR access? Do you utilize E-prescribing for consistency and accuracy? These are just a few of the questions every organization should ask itself. Answering ‘no’ is the first step to discovering new opportunities to improve.

For those that think they can’t improve, scarcity is often identified as the reason. Budgets are thin and resources are scarce. However, many of the actions that appear to be expensive will save you money in the long run by reducing inefficiency and preventing costly mistakes and downtime.

As you look for new ways to better serve your clients, consider that some changes to your supporting processes may be a cost effective move toward being client-first.