Mental health is a key aspect of healthcare and Pacific pharmacy students now have an exciting new opportunity to gain hands-on experience in this area through a community outreach program. The School has been awarded a grant of $15,000 by San Joaquin County Behavioral Health Services to develop a program of educational activities in mental health within the County.
The project entitled “Partnering Pharmacists and those with Lived Experience of Mental Illness to Enhance Recognition, Early Intervention and Care Capacity in the Wellness Center of San Joaquin” will be coordinated by Robert F. Halliwell, PhD Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology. He has been assisted in the process of securing this grant by Edward L. Rogan, PharmD, BCACP Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice, who has been a key contributor to the project.
Dr. Halliwell shares the focus of the project, “Our program builds on evidence-based practice that educational activities reduce stigma, improve linkage in healthcare, enhance early recognition and facilitate early intervention in mental illness. Educational activities also improve understanding, confidence, insight and ability to cope in those with mental illness.” In addition, “Interaction between community pharmacists and mental health consumers reduces stigma.”
Pharmacy students who are members of Pacific’s Mental Health Committee will be participating in this outreach program. Dr. Halliwell believes this program is beneficial for students preparing for a career in pharmacy. He said, “It gives them the invaluable, first-hand experience of seeing some of the most complex and common disorders they must help to manage in their careers. It will also reduce the stigma many people, including pharmacy students and practitioners, have of mental illness.”
For Dr. Halliwell this grant recognizes the community outreach already in motion. He explains, “This project builds on some of the educational activities I have developed with the Mental Health Committee to provide educational training for members of the Wellness Center here in Stockton. The Wellness Center is a free, drop-in facility that provides peer-run support for those with mental illnesses.” Those the Center serves are “frequently without health insurance or regular income.” He adds, “We are privileged to help this Center develop its resources.”
Mental health is a prevalent issue in California. Dr. Halliwell notes, “According to the U.S. Government approximately one in five adults in the U.S., 43.8 million or 18.5 percent of the population, experiences mental illness in a given year. California reports nearly 1.8 million individuals with a mental health-related issue.” In response, programs such as the one made possible by this grant provide resources and support for those dealing with mental illness. According to Dr. Halliwell, “The World Health Organization recognizes the importance of including consumers in the development of mental health education. Evidence-based practice shows that incorporating those with lived experience of mental illness as educators in training programs for pharmacy, nursing and medical students can elevate the status of the consumer and impart a greater sense of equality in the health decision-making process.”
A portion of the grant will go toward training consumables, including blood glucose and cholesterol tests, which will be administered by the students. Dr. Halliwell explains the reason these tests are an integral part of the program: “Many [prescription] drugs used in psychiatry, especially those for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, change blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Routine testing of these parameters help reduce the risk of developing diabetes, obesity, stroke and cardiovascular disease. We are also running mental health screenings for depression, anxiety and insomnia.”
Dr. Halliwell sees this program as one way in which the School is continuing the tradition of community involvement. He expresses, “Healthcare professionals are an integral and important part of our community, so our involvement is essential and has always been a part of the activities of faculty, staff and students.”
By Anne Marie H. Bergthold