David Wright interviewed Dr. David Mee-Lee about dual diagnosis services. This is treatment for people with co-occurring substance us and mental health problems. Dr. Mee-Lee consults with Santa Clara County departments of Alcohol and Drugs as well as Mental Health. As such I have had the opportunity to attend his trainings as well as sit in consultation of cases with him. He is a pioneer of motivation interviewing, and he works with the call center on being able to figure out what people would like to get from mental health. “You start at the door they open and where they let you in rather than telling them they have to work on a problem they don’t think they have. Work on what they’re there for and from that point move to how their substance use and their mental health problems have been shooting themselves in the foot, preventing them from getting what they really want.
This article is best when it talks about rehabilitation of mental health and substance abuse problems. “Recover doesn’t necessarily mean they’re cured when you’re talking about a chronic illness—no more than if somebody with diabetes or hypertension or asthma. … A person suffering from a mental illness as well as a substance problem won’t be able to be cured in the sense that they will never have a mental health problem or substance problem again. They can recover, meaning they can live beyond just the fact that they have alcoholism or a mental illness. They can have goals and aspirations and be empowered to have hope to change their life in terms of their relationships, in terms of productivity in the community, and reaching their dreams and aspirations. … Recover really means stabilizing their mental health and substance problem, but then living and growing to have an identity beyond just their illness.”
Dr. Mee-Lee concludes with advice for family and community. The first is to realize that mental illness is not unusual. There is “nothing bizarre or weird about…having substance problems or mental health issues. The second point he makes is that there is help for mental illness. Getting treatment sooner rather than later leads to a better result.