In October 1982, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health recommended and approved a plan to reorganize the state hospitals. During this reorganizational effort, a program in which family members of hospital patients would serve as hospital monitors was formed. For more than 30 years, National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) Berkshire County – in collaboration with Berkshire Medical Center (BMC) and the Department of Mental Health – have sustained the Citizen Monitoring Program. Trained family volunteers are able to visit the psychiatric units at BMC and give their observations with a fresh eye to the benefit of all. The primary goal is to improve the quality of life of patients and for the staff who serve them. The staff-family collaboration it fosters strengthens the power of advocacy.
Volunteers receive a three-hour training session sponsored by the Department of Mental Health, the staff of BMC, and NAMI Berkshire County. As monitors, family members become educated about all facets of the hospital environment and are then able to provide feedback to the mental health administration on the care being provided to patients. Monitors are given six-month unit assignments and make scheduled site visits once a month. All monitors work in pairs and are accompanied by a different staff member on each visit. Monitoring reports are then reviewed at follow-up meetings arranged with the monitoring teams and the administrative head of BMC. Trainings take place annually.
If you are interested in becoming a citizen monitor contact NAMI Berkshire County at 413-443-1666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.