A recovery-based, patient-centered system of care

Public Sector Psychiatry Conference focused on patients living with mental illness

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

June 15, 2012
  Meg Hutchinson, a singer-songwriter and Massachusetts native in recovery from bipolar disorder, was the closing speaker for the annual Public Sector Psychiatry Conference.

“What I’ve learned in the six years since my breakdown is that not only can we get better, we can get better than we were before,” said Hutchinson of the long-term, ongoing process of recovery that is vital for individuals living with mental illness to go on to lead productive and fulfilling lives after acute symptoms of their illnesses have been brought under control. Hutchinson was finally diagnosed and began successful treatment for bipolar disorder in 2006, after years of alternating episodes of depression and manic elation.


Acknowledging thatrecovery is hard work and a daily process, she shared the five fundamentals of her own success: support from others; proper medication; affordable health care (as a performing artist with irregular income despite having released six albums, she has received her treatment from public sector psychiatry resources in Massachusetts); lifestyle changes; and, the one she concentrated on most, “cultivating methods for treating a deeper part of ourselves.”

Having found that creative expression, meditation and yoga help her immeasurably, Hutchinson urged the mental health care providers in the room to support patients in taking a holistic approach that incorporates non-medical as well as medical treatments. She also gave a shout-out to her friends at Genesis Club, Worcester’s exemplar of the international clubhouse model that provides housing, friendship and employment opportunities for adults in recovery from mental illness. Many members and staff of Genesis Club, which has received transitional employment support from UMMS, were in attendance at the conference.

Jointly sponsored by the UMMS Department of Psychiatry and Office of Continuing Medical Education with the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society, the conference brought together psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers and others to share challenges, successes and best practices for treatment planning for patients in recovery from mental illness. With the focus on person-centered, client-driven and strengths-based approaches, the conference included the following speakers in addition to Hutchinson::

  • Marcia Fowler, JD, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health;
  • Douglas Ziedonis, MD, MPH, chair and professor of psychiatry;
  • Jeffrey Geller, MD, MPH, professor of psychiatry, co-director of the Policy Research Core at the Center for Mental Health Services Research, and director of Public Sector Psychiatry at UMass Medical School;
  • Deborah Saper, PDS, MFT, program development specialist for Ancora Psychiatric Hospital;
  • Daniel Fisher, MD, PhD, co-director of the National Empowerment Center, an organization committed to helping individuals and groups develop the knowledge and ability to transform the mental health service system toward a more recovery-oriented and consumer-and family-driven approach, and himself in recovery from schizophrenia;
  • Mark Ragins, MD, medical director of MHA Village Integrated Service Agency; and
  • Alexis Henry, ScD, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Work Without Limits initiative to help employ people with disabilities.

Thanking them all for their work on behalf of individuals like herself, Hutchinson summed up the spirit of the conference when she said, “It’s great to participate in a conference that focuses on health and recovery instead of illness.”

Related links on UMassMedNow:
Transitional employment improves lives of adults with mental illness
Mindfulness as a tool for mental health
Using art to triumph over mental illness