#NatCon17: More Hope and Promise

The election results in November of 2016, and the actions since President Trump took office have left little to be desired about the future of mental health and healthcare. Faced with a potential for continued issues of poor resources for mental health, and healthcare; it has been a challenging time for me. I have found solace in the company of my fellow “So-called” healthcare and mental health advocates on social media.

Social media has always been a place for me to network with fellow advocates in social work and beyond. In the last three days my love for finding out the latest in mental health innovation and connecting with others on social media converged in a wonderful space. I had the privilege of being a Twitter Ambassador for the National Council For Behavioral Health Annual Conference. I applied for this competitive stipend to attend the conference for free in exchange for live tweeting the event. Just as a side bar; if you are a conference organizer you might want to consider doing this (probably a blog post for another day).

Bit of Hope

Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin opened up the conference by attempting make sense of the Mr. Trump’s presidency by putting it in a historical context. She talked about how past Presidents have had to have resilience and also gravitas in the face of challenges.  Despite his lack of resilience and gravitas, there are other forces that can assist keeping him in check. She also talked about the importance of journalism and creating movements to resist when needed. I found this inspiring.

Princeton University Economist Uwe Reinhardt presented about the contrast between the ACA and proposed American Healthcare Act.  Using humor and his vast knowledge of the healthcare economics, he presented an unbiased view about the complexity of the American Healthcare system and the challenges of reform.  I felt like I was more armed with knowledge to work with elected offices. A recap was captured in this twitter moment…

Drawing closer to Mental Health, Dr. Tom Insel former directory of  The National Institute of Mental Health, now with Google talked about how Technology can help “Bend The Curve” with mental health treatment. He highlighted some of accomplishments of technology in mental health but where we can go next. This was also captured in this twitter moment…


…And Promise

Despite what may happen politically, people and companies presented inspiring ways of changing the way mental health care. Now these are just the highlights because the conference was chalk-full of this stuff.

A real inspiring moment was hearing Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speak with passion about community and social determinants of health. He described his listening tour when he began his term where issues of Opioid Dependence and Mental health were common themes. It gave me hope that The Surgeon General is a voice for these issues and that his passion is a promise be a voice in government.


I was excited to cover the technology track and the mix of human interaction looks incredibly promising. There are groups thinking carefully and taking action about Dr. Insel’s hope. There was a wonderful panel about focused on who they are using technology for engagement.  Using human-centered design as a foundation; IDEO, Center for Innovation, Partners For Strong Minds, and Google are developing mental health games and apps.

The design team from IDEO pointed out the critical need to include end users in design…

Also the need to go where people are. Partners for Strong Minds highlighted their use of Google Ad’s to bring people to their site…

The a brief recap of the entire presentation on apps and engagement can be found by clicking on the below image..


The future of mental health care was focused on how can we take the human capital we have and mix it with technology. Companies like MyStength, InnovaTel, and Seven Cups of Tea are thinking about how they can bring providers and patients closer together to improve access. Please check out the recap of this presentation on the image below…


There were so many fantastic presentations this year and this was just a sample. Despite what is happening in government; facts and advocacy are still on our side.  I left the conference with a sense that providers and clients are working closer together to develop new programs. That people are working tirelessly on how we can use data and technology as a source for advocacy and care. With the right combination of people and technology we can accomplish a lot. A brief example of this if the people from CrisisTech360. They have developed a census management system that you can share in real time. It also collects data that can be mined later to better inform care…


I look forward to continually tracking progress on how we do with this. Seeing the numerous efforts to improve mental health care gave me hope and promise that things will get better. That individuals and companies will continue to strive to make mental health care better for clients and providers. People have come to far fighting for this and we are certainly not giving up now.

If you were at #NatCon17, I would love to hear your take homes. Please feel free to comment…


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