Maryland Network of Care: What Is It and How Can I Learn How to Use It?
September 22, 2008
Maryland Consumer Network News
BALTIMORE—The Maryland Network of Care for Behavioral Health (http://maryland.networkofcare.org) is an interactive community-based information highway that can put you on the road to all the essentials you will need to find supports in your community for mental health. Do not be intimidated, it is very easy to use, and more than likely there is someone at your On Our Own Wellness and Recovery Center who has been trained and can help you navigate your way around the Network of Care (NOC) via the World Wide Web.
Network of Care was conceptualized by two men, Bruce Bronzan and Afshin Khosravi, but before the idea was born these two men were doing amazing work in their respected fields. Mr. Bronzan has an impressive background in health, human services and substance abuse, and is a former member of the California State Legislature, chairing the Health Committee for 10 years. Mr. Khosravi has enjoyed a career of building highly interactive community-based websites that serve organizations for disadvantaged populations. These two men teamed up to spearhead Trilogy Integrated Resources Inc., which eventually collaborated with the California Department of Mental Health and the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, funded by a state grant, to launch Network of Care in San Diego County in April 2003. Trilogy’s effort to expand communication in the health and social services field has brought Network of Care to currently 21 states and 454 counties around the country. The NOC is expanding rapidly with 200 more sites coming online within the next three months.
Maryland’s statewide launch of Network of Care went public at the On Our Own of Maryland Annual Conference May 30, 2008. In an effort to show Maryland consumers how to utilize all the advantages of NOC, Paul Cumming, Trilogy’s National Outreach and Training Manager, traveled around the OOOMD Consumer Network in July 2008 giving presentations on how to steer the system. I was lucky enough to take part in the statewide campaign with Paul, and by mid-travel I could not help but be so enthused by the network’s fast undertaking of the new mental health technology.
Paul stated to me, “I am so impressed with On Our Own, from the type of leadership and support provided, including business consulting for the regional consumer organizations right up to the fantastic annual conference. This has been my best week of work since joining the NOC in 2005. Maryland is for sure a leader in the consumer movement in our country. By bringing in the NOC, consumers will have a fast, easy to use tool for so many aspects of our lived experience. With the internet, we gain success and power over our illnesses and strength in advocacy goals. I look forward to many, many interactions with the folks in Maryland.”
If you were not fortunate enough to view one of Paul’s presentations it is easy enough to check out the website yourself and access valuable mental health information. Just go the website www.networkofcare.org, click on Mental/Behavioral Health, find your state and county and then start surfing. Each channel of NOC is represented with a gold circular marker to start you off in your search.
The first marker takes you to community supports that will assist you in locating available resources in your area. The second is a library of over 40,000 articles on 400 topics surrounding current health and mental health areas of interest. The third is a legislative advocacy tool that can be used to lobby political legislation and view county and state representative contact information.
The fourth, fifth and sixth channel markers will connect you other relevant health links, local insurance providers, and more support and advocacy resources. Finally the last marker can help those with Wellness and Recovery Action Plans (WRAP) to further legitimize their mental health care with easy access, retrieval, and updates to their WRAPs.
If you are still feeling intimidated, the live demos for each section can walk you through step by step on how to use each resource channel. There are still more advantages within the NOC that can allow you to view local community calendar events, develop personal medical health libraries to share with trusted family, friends, and doctors, create discharge, relapse and crisis plans, and even print out emergency cards with all your pertinent information to keep with you.
The most important thing to remember is that you, the users, are the driving and building forces behind this information highway. There are ways for you to add, update, and delete information in the NOC and all information is peer-reviewed and county-approved. This way you are keeping local resources current and available for all users. Also, you will want to find out who your Network of Care point person is for your region or county and inform them of any content additions, corrections or questions you may have. To find out that information, simply email the Network of Care at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, I want to give a big thanks to Paul Cumming and all of the OOOMD members who have participated in expanding Network of Care here in Maryland. Your efforts to educate and inspire others to check out just how much information can be accessed at your fingertips is one of the many reasons we are leading the path for mental health consumers everywhere.
To get in touch directly with Paul, as he works on the road, call him at: (619) 318-9079 or email him at email@example.com.
Elaine Carroll, the author of this article, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.