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After many years of discussion and brainstorming, on May 29, 2013, the CMSC MS Mental Health Professionals (MS/MHP) Special Interest Group (SIG) held its first annual meeting. Chair Roberta Winter and Co-chair Alicia Sloan led this fearless group and facilitated discussions around the future goals for the group and subcommittee formations. The MS/MHP SIG elected Allison Fine, a clinical social worker in private practice in Seattle, Washington, as Secretary. While the group's goals will surely change over time, the initial all-inclusive foundation will focus on best practices for all professionals interested in the mental health of patients with MS.
The 20 participants in the initial meeting held at the recent May 29th conference were from all over North America. From New York to Washington State, the group’s demographics covered nine US states and one Canadian province, Alberta. Professionals attending the meeting were trained psychologists, social workers, nurses, and speech language pathologists, all with a common interest in better helping those with MS and co-existing mental health concerns and diagnoses. Some of these individuals were first-time attendees, while others have been coming to CMSC Annual Meetings since the 1990s. The group hopes that the diversity of professional backgrounds and areas of practice will allow for a broader range of ideas, experiences, and growth of learning at each Annual Meeting.
While the MS/MHP’s overall goal will include the development of best practices for MS mental health professionals, the group will also focus their energies in the first year on a number of other projects. Rosalind Kalb, Vice President of the Professional Resource Center at the National MS Society in New York City, will spearhead a subcommittee to review the current mental health professional trainings published in the past by the National MS Society. Others will work toward getting CEUs for psychologists who attend the yearly meeting. And all members will continue to try and define what it means to be an MS mental health professional. Longer-term goals for the group include seeking further cultural competency for MS professionals, potential for multiple research site opportunities for psychosocial studies, and mentorship for new MS professionals working in the mental health field.
Since the May meeting, Ms. Winter, Ms. Sloan, and Ms. Fine have been focused on getting the MS/MHP’s portal on the CMSC website up and running. The site promises to be somewhat like a more private Facebook page where MS mental health professionals can interact between Annual Meetings, share mental health resources for MS patients, and brainstorm about how best to work with challenging patients. Anyone who is interested in learning more or being a part of this group can go to the new MS/MHP webpage. All MS professionals interested in mental health issues are encouraged to join.To join the MS/MHP Group, please click on the following: http://groups.google.com/group/ms-mhp.