June 1st, 2015

New commissioner outlines priorities

This spring, clinical psychologist Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., was named commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services.

Delphin-Rittmon served as acting commissioner since early March, following the departure of former Commissioner Patricia Rehmer. Delphin-Rittmon’s background includes serving as assistant professor and director of health equity and multicultural research and consultation with the Program for Recovery and Community Health in the Yale Department of Psychiatry.

She is also senior policy advisor and co-director of the Office of Multicultural Healthcare Equality with Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services. In 2014, she completed a two-year White House appointment working as a senior advisor to the administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Delphin-Rittmon said Connecticut has been on the cutting-edge in many areas, particularly in its equity work, and advancing recovery-oriented care system-wide. “In both areas, we’ve been recognized by NAMI as doing favorable and impacting work. I worked with the previous commissioners on these initiatives and I’m really proud of that work,” she said.

“One thing that we are in the midst of now that I’m really committed to our continuing to advance is the implementation of health homes,” she said. Behavioral Health Homes are an integrated healthcare service delivery model that is recovery-oriented, person- and family-centered and aims for improved patient experience, outcomes, and cost-effectiveness.

These systems are within local mental health facilities, both state-run and private. “These systems of care integrate primary care into behavioral health,” she said. “An individual could, in many instances, walk through the door and have their blood pressure taken, arrange for primary care services and see a psychologist or psychiatrist. That’s just tremendous. Being able to provide care that addresses both behavioral health and primary care, we think, is a real important innovation we want to have state-wide.”

She is also diving into the advancement of electronic health records. “Health information can be shared across systems of care in real time,” she said. “We’re really advancing our information systems to have a cutting-edge updated system of care.”

Another initiative Delphin-Rittmon is enthusiastic about is legislation proposed by the governor that would partner with the Department of Correction to divert individuals with non-violent drug offenses into behavioral health settings.

“That provides an opportunity for us to provide treatment for individuals with no violent offenses who might otherwise not be able to receive treatment,” she said. “We believe that will be a very important piece of legislation.”

“Individuals who don’t get the care they need end up cycling through the system,” she said. Programs like the proposed legislation give people second chances. “Recovery for many people is a journey,” she said.

As a psychologist, Delphin-Rittmon said she has a particular interest in community health and systems of care. “Our work really is about helping to promote recovery, and helping people live full lives in the community,” she said.

“There’s a part of me that still has my research hat, and I think it’s also really important for us to continue to evaluate and look at our models and advance evidence-based care.”

By Pamela Berard

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