Vermont’s Blueprint for Health initiative is helping to coordinate and expand throughout the state a series of free, evidence-based self-management workshops to help residents with health maintenance as well as prevention of a range of chronic health issues.
As part of this effort, Blueprint for Health and the Department of Mental Health, in collaboration with the Vermont Center for Independent Living and Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, worked to help spread Copeland Center Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) workshops across the state. WRAP, a peer-led and peer-engaged wellness and recovery system, helps participants decrease and prevent troubling feelings and behaviors, increase personal empowerment and improve quality of life through a personalized system of wellness tools and action plans.
Jill Lord, RN, MS, director of patient care services/CNO, Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center, first helped to integrate WRAP into her facility’s patient-centered medical home about five years ago through a rural health outreach grant. She says the program was very successful, and she credits Beth Tanzman, MSW, Vermont Blueprint for Health assistant director, for helping to fund its continuation through Blueprint for Health. “We would be at a loss if we weren’t able to offer this,” Lord says. “It’s a tool that you can’t get other places.”
Tanzman says WRAP sessions help participants learn methods for their daily lives to help them achieve wellness and also to recognize early warning signs of when they may be feeling less stable and methods to cope.
Tanzman says the Department of Mental Health previously sponsored WRAP programs for many years for those with severe mental illness, but state-sponsored efforts have grown to now reach a more general population. For example, if someone is having a problem getting a timely referral for a mental health concern, they might seek out a WRAP session for support and to get started in their journey toward wellness. “We see it as very connected to the work primary care practitioners are doing,” Tanzman says. “People are bettering their education and bettering their ability to do self-regulation and support strategies.”
At Mt. Ascutney five years ago, Lord says they were trying to fill two gaps in services in the community, one of which was mental health. “Our initial thought was to bring needed resources in terms of professionals into the area to fill the gap,” Lord says. “We quickly found there’s a workforce shortage and we wouldn’t be able to achieve that goal, so we looked at self-management programs and best practices and determined the WRAP program was a best practice approach.”
WRAP participants may be referred by providers or can self-refer. Because WRAP sessions are typically peer-led, “They are walking the journey with folks – it’s so powerful,” Lord says. Facilitators receive training, support, and mentoring.
WRAP sessions are open to all. “It has broad applicability for anybody that’s seeking mental wellness,” Lord says, whether that be someone with a diagnosed illness to those just looking to improve their mental health functioning. Participants have included residents with concerns about anxiety to those suffering from depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or agoraphobia, for example.
Lord says WRAP gives people hope. “It gives them a toolbox to manage their daily life, just centered on them,” she says. “It builds skills that people need to be able to reach their own goals and to be more confident and effective in their life.”
Participants develop skills based on their barriers and triggers to achieving wellness, and work on methods to stay happy and healthy, and build a support system. Lord says WRAP is patient-centered and participants build individualized plans.
Lord says follow up studies with participants up to nine months after a WRAP session have demonstrated they have a greater capacity to be more resourceful, more confident, and more hopeful.
By Pamela Berard