Open and frank dialogue is a cornerstone of psychiatry, so it makes perfect sense for Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital to impanel a diverse group of participants on its Behavioral Health Advisory Council. Indeed, the nine-person Advisory Council, formed in 2011, includes three hospital staff members and six former patients. “Our mission is to have a patient and family perspective on operations within the hospital,” says Christine Simpson, LCSW, an employee advisor on the council and a social worker at YNHPH. “We openly discuss policies, procedures and programming so that the patients, their families and staff can join together in a team effort to make the hospital a better place for patients to receive care.”
Greg Benson’s presence on the Advisory Council exemplifies that desire to provide perspective. Benson, a former patient at YNHPH, serves as the co-chair. “We discuss initiatives, provide recommendations and create dialogues,” he says in describing the Advisory Council’s monthly meetings. “Our goal is to be able to
implement constructive improvements toward making the experiences better for individuals served at the hospital.”
Adding to Benson’s position on the Advisory Council is the fact that he now works in the behavioral health field. “My experience receiving psychiatric services from Yale-New Haven has been quite formative in the direction my life has taken,” he says. “A big reason that I’m currently enjoying a rich life is because this institution was here.”
Beyond reflecting upon his own positive outcome at YNHPH, Benson feels a sense of responsibility to advocate for improved services at the hospital, which makes his membership on the Advisory Council all the more natural. “Yale-New Haven is really making strides to do better and better,” he says, “and that’s exciting. The healthcare field in general has realized that there are aspects of our systems that have been unsuccessful for years. There’s this thought that sometimes the people who are receiving services have good ideas about what they need to improve.”
Simpson readily concurs with the wisdom of having former patients on the Advisory Council. “They have a perspective that the staff doesn’t have,” she states. “As the recipients of care, they would know best about how that care was received, much better than I would. So their input is very important in changing how we conduct our business every day.”
Among the initiatives that have been implemented by the Advisory Council is a new admission policy that includes uniformly contacting patients’ families, a policy which used to be the exception rather than the rule. “Literally from the moment the patient walks in the door, this is a way to help family members have a better experience with the hospital, too,” Simpson says.
Even that relatively small change illustrates the overall impact of the Advisory Council. “Just that one simple thing has raised the staff’s awareness of how we need to help patients and families have a better experience,” Simpson observes. “It has certainly made me even more aware of and sensitive to the needs of our patients.”