What’s New?MS/MHP’s Allison Fine and Alicia Sloan Interviewed by Social Work Today on
Grieving Chronic Illness & Injury
In December of 2012, the Board of Governors of the CMSC approved the formation of a new Special Interest Group (SIG), called the International Organization of Multiple Sclerosis Mental Health Professionals (MS/MHP). Roberta Winter, LCSW, MSCS, was named Co-chair, along with Alicia Sloan, MPH, MSW, LICSW.
Ms. Winter is a Clinical Faculty member of Chicago Center for Family Health, and Care Manager (Registry) at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. She has been an active member of the CMSC for many years and is a long-term presenter at the Annual Meeting.
Ms. Sloan is Clinical Research and Project Coordinator at the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence (MSCoE) - West, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle. She has been a member of the CMSC since 2007, and a presenter at the Annual Meeting since 2012. She is active in national MSCoE research and education projects and committees at the VA, has co-published research articles and posters, and has presented at the annual Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Summit. She is a founding member and co-leader of the VA MS Social Work Collaborative for VA Social Workers nationwide who work with Veterans with MS. She is also a founding member of the MS Social Work Collaborative of Washington, a professional networking group of social workers involved with MS in the community.
The formation of this new mental health SIG has been a long time in coming. ”For the past 2 years we have had a social work roundtable for social workers and psychologists,” explained Ms. Winter, adding that "June [Halper] has known for some time that I have wanted to increase the visibility of social work, and therefore all mental health issues in MS.” When the idea of developing a social work special interest group was presented to Ms. Winter, she in turn suggested to Ms. Halper that it would be even better to form a mental health SIG to include all mental health professionals and the idea moved into proposal stage.
As defined in the bylaws, the purpose of the MS/MHP (add link) is to develop an international network of mental health professionals who meet annually, and to promote and enhance the role of mental health professionals in MS by sharing and disseminating relevant information and research findings.
MS/MHP will develop educational programs and materials, and facilitate research and best practices related to mental health in MS, aimed at publication in widespread media as well as through the CMSC itself. MS/MHP is also designed to promote advocacy activities related to mental health in MS patients and their families.
"We already have two social work symposia on the calendar,” said Ms. Winter, who is running a program entitled, "Case Management and the Challenging Patient: A Skills-Based Interactive Dialogue,” on the morning of May 30th at the CMSC. Alicia Sloan will follow up with the symposium, "MS and Personality Disorder: A Challenging Co-Morbidity,” in the afternoon.
The first activities of MS/MHP will be to recruit members and set up a membership database. The initial organizational meeting will be held at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, May 29, 2013, the first day of the CMSC Annual Meeting followed by a joint dinner and presentation with the International Organization of MS Rehabilitation Therapists (IOMSRT) at 8:00 pm. "We are hoping to recruit interested mental health professionals, social workers, psychologists, and allied health professionals to the organization, and to have a broad base for talking about each other’s work and disseminating research,” Ms. Winter reported. Participation at the CMSC Annual Meeting continues to be a significant road towards unifying this group of professionals in the common goal of improving the quality of life for people with MS and their care circles.
Using the very successful model of IOMSRT, another important CMSC SIG, Ms. Winter and Ms. Sloan envision MS/MHP growing into a strong, cohesive network of multidisciplinary professionals who can share experiences and guide each other in the field. Like IOMSRT and the International Organization of MS Nurses (IOMSN), MS/MHP will create educational programs and put people together to get the conversation going, thus enhancing the role of the mental health care professional working with the MS population.
The next question was how to launch and get noticed among a group of MS professionals who are not already networked? The obvious answer was to start with an advertised organizational meeting at CMSC, followed by a joint dinner with an already established SIG like IOMSRT to help the group define its new identity. "Like the other SIGs, we wanted to hold a group dinner to bring people together in a more casual setting and continue our dialogue from the organizational meeting,” said Ms. Winter. When IOMSRT Chair, Patty Bobryk, suggested that MS/MHP share the IOMSRT dinner in 2013 to launch their new group, Ms. Winter and Ms. Sloan eagerly accepted. The evening program will include joint mental health and rehabilitation presentations at the dinner. "Patty Bobryk welcomed us with open arms and offered to share her database with us to help get our message out to potential new members,” said Ms. Winter warmly.
The MS/MHP will also have an online presence on the CMSC Website. There will be the ability to connect to the MS/MHP web group through clicking on the logo on the bottom left hand side of the CMSC main website www.mscare.org . MS/MHP will be listed along with the other SIG groups.
With strong support by CMSC and IOMSRT, Ms. Winter and Ms. Sloan are hoping the official launch of the MS/MHP at the CMSC Annual Meeting will be very successful. Ms. Winter couldn’t be happier to see her vision finally becoming reality. "I’m thrilled to be participating, I’m thrilled that June sought to initiate it and that Susan Ratti came on board to staff it, and I’m thrilled that Alicia and I are working on this together,” she said happily. Ms. Winter sees a perfect partner in Ms. Sloan, who is eager to execute the ideas they develop together. "We have worked together to develop the initial groundwork for the group, and Alicia and I and those interested in the group will continue to develop it further and into the future,” Ms. Winter added.
To join the MS/MHP Group, please click on the following: http://www.mscare.org/members/group.asp?id=110327. You need to login before you can join the group.