“Patient-Centered… will involve some radical, unfamiliar, and disruptive shifts in control and power, out of the hands of those who give care and into the hands of those who receive it.” –Dr. Donald M. Berwick

It’s been more than ten years since Dr. Berwick penned “What ‘Patient-Centered’ Should Mean: Confessions Of An Extremist” for Health Affairs, but its revolutionary concepts are still demanding to be realized. We’re on the cusp of 988 as a national behavioral health and suicide prevention crisis hotline. Yet the most common experience today for individuals on their worst day of emotional pain who require more intensive services may involve law enforcement, transportation in the back of a patrol car, and being handcuffed, and most certainly requires hours and hours (or even days) detained in a small hospital emergency department waiting.

RI International made the leap to “patient-centered” 20 years ago when my predecessor Gene Johnson began hiring hundreds of “peers,” and RI’s VP of Peer Support and Empowerment Lisa St. George began traveling the globe to share Peer Employment Training (RI’s Certified Peer Specialist academy). Today, more than two out of three of our nearly 1,200 staff nationwide report lived experience of serious mental illness, substance use and/or homelessness, and it’s been transformative. We refer to individuals entering our Crisis Recovery Centers as “guests,” the facilities look and feel more like a retreat than an institution, and the care is characterized at all levels by caring engagement and collaboration, instead of detention and control.

Those who give care will continue to default to what we’ve done. Those who receive care are ready to help us forge a new path. Isn’t it time to take on Dr. Berwick’s hopeful charge?

David Covington

David is CEO and President of RI International. He’s a behavioral health innovator, entrepreneur and storyteller, and the creator of HopeInc.com.