New Mental Health Help Online

May 9, 2006
Bruce Gurganus, Marin County Community Mental Health Services Director, Marin Independent Journal

For people with mental illnesses, substance use disorders, or for families of children with emotional disturbances, locating and navigating the complex array of available services can be a confusing and frustrating experience.

A new Web site, www.marin.networkofcare.org, is now available. It describes local services in seven languages.

The Web site offers a vast variety of services and information about local services for people with mental illness or substance use disorders, or both. State and federal legislative information allows you to track and support or oppose important initiatives. Topical news stories are updated daily. The articles in the online library are reviewed quarterly to ensure they keep up with the latest research and findings. The Marin Heroes of Mental Health section highlights people who have provided outstanding service to others.

Although many quality behavioral health services are available to residents of California's communities, there is all often-inadequate coordination because of the fragmented way programs are funded. Accessing services effectively and on a timely basis can be an extremely difficult task for the public.

Many of the problems associated with the fragmentation of services are information issues. Not only are consumers in the dark about available services, but also the agencies themselves don't know all of the other services in the community for their clients because no information system has connected agencies to each other. Furthermore, the public is largely unaware of important related information on topics such as specific disorders, early intervention, prevention, independent living, wellness/recovery, legislation, new medications and advocacy.

The corporate community has for some time been addressing similar information problems using a variety of Internet solutions. Until now, Web technology has been scarce in diverse, fragmented public systems such as those serving the elderly, people with disabilities, kids at risk, and people with mental illness.

However, a revolution is taking place in the public's use of the Internet.

Sixty percent of the public uses the Internet as its primary source of health information - and the number is growing.

A way to connect the vast, extensive, easily accessible, nearly universal phenomenon of the Internet is now available for local behavioral health services.

Network of Care is a single place for consumers, caregivers, families and case managers to gain knowledge, quickly find and coordinate community services, to store important information and to advocate to policymakers. Marin's Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Community Mental Health Services sponsors the site.

The system is paid for by funds from the Mental Health Services Act (formerly Proposition 63), passed by the state's voters in November 2004. Trilogy Integrated Resources, a San Rafael-based company, built and maintains the site. The network is accessible to those with limited computer experience and those with limited English. The network is free and user friendly. It is available in seven languages: English, Spanish, Cantonese, Russian, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Cambodian.

Now, Marin residents can easily learn how to access mental health and substance abuse services online. Just go to www.marin.networkofcare.org and start exploring.