The Celebrated Cell Phones of Calaveras County


Calaveras County, CA is being honored for a novel hospital diversion program. By giving cell phones programmed to reach key supporters to repeat users of psychiatric services, the county has reduced the number of re-hospitalizations. “This little phone right here has been my lifeline,” says one user, adding that thanks to his ability to connect with people he trusts, he hasn’t been hospitalized for three years.

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“Because they are low/no-income or homeless, persons with serious mental illness often have no access to telephone service. To address isolation and disconnectedness of Calaveras County residents with serious mental illness, Behavioral Health created an innovative way to use mobile phones to support recovery and reduce psychiatric hospitalizations. Mobile phones are programmed with phone numbers of the consumer’s “personal services coordinator” as well as other key contacts. Along with easy access to staff support, consumers are also able to stay in touch with friends and family members, which supports their mental health. These phones have also enabled consumers to maintain better contact with primary care providers. While the provision of mobile phones is just one service Behavioral Health provides its consumers, the department feels strongly that the ability to stay connected is a primary link to the other services provides, while reducing hospitalizations. The department has seen an increase in consumer participation in mental health programs, improve interpersonal relationships and higher sense of community.”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].