City Web Site on Mental Health, Addiction Issues to Launch Today

June 16, 2005
Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia mental health officials plan to launch an ambitious new Web site today that will allow patients and their relatives to search for treatment options, learn about legislation that could affect them and create their own private medical Web page.

The $60,000 city-funded initiative - www.philly.networkofcare.org - attempts to centralize the overwhelming amount of information available on the Internet about mental health, addiction and mental retardation, said Dr. Arthur Evans, director of the city's Office of Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation Services.

Evans said the free site, covering services from in-patient hospital care to self-help support groups, is intended for both patients and providers of mental-health services.

"We want people to regain their lives and be integrated within the community," Evans said, adding that the site is part of a larger effort to eliminate racial health disparities and give consumers more control over their treatment.

Starting today, users can read about disorders and what providers offer, including links to state-licensed or city-funded programs and practitioners with city contracts.

Individuals will also be able to enter and track their own medical information confidentially, Evans said. Their file can include data such as their doctors' phone numbers, drug dosages, and even the location of their will.

The ability to enter such personal information in one place enables Web surfers to track their treatment, Evans said. And while treatment is often divided among a team of professionals, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, Evans said the new site allows people to give their providers permission to look at all their records.

Evans said efforts have been made to ensure that the Web site engages underserved populations, including African Americans. The site is translated from English into six languages: Cambodian, Cantonese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

The information provided on the site, in any language, will be useful and improvable in the future, according to Joseph Rogers, President of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

"Consumers have trouble accessing good information for the services they need and understanding the intricacies of diagnosis," Rogers said.

He said the site could improve by listing how the city awards mental-health contracts, adding "the more information, the better."

Contact staff writer Shirley Wang at 215 854-5568 or swang@phillynews.com.