California State Library offers specialized library service to Department of Mental Health

Some people know a good thing when they have it! For a number of years, Emily Nahat, as the Deputy Director at the First 5 California Children and Families Commission, enjoyed the benefits of an interagency contract for enhanced library service with the California State Library. Now Chief of Prevention and Early Intervention at the California Department of Mental Health (CDMH), Nahat and her new CDMH team are responsible for implementing key dictates of the Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63, November 2004), specifically helping mitigate mental illness in children and youth before their conditions become problematic to society, their families, and themselves. Knowing her staff must have reliable and timely mental health research to best serve the state of California, Nahat has initiated another contract with the California State Library (CSL).

The CDMH-CSL contract stipulates that the CSL will make available to the CDMH a team of staff members, including a full-time reference librarian, a job the CSL has assigned to Peggy Fish who has a new MLIS degree, numerous contacts in the mental health community, and experience with a nonprofit for the homeless.

From the start, Fish has enjoyed working with the CDMH. Within a week of working on the project, she attended a meeting of the committee that oversees implementing the Mental Health Act and learned what the staff hired to implement the Act needed. Fish immediately deduced that this CDMH program, which focuses on early mental health intervention, suicide prevention, reduction of stigma and discrimination, community and school-based services, maternal depression, primary care intervention, juvenile justice, and foster care, demands that the CSL deliver cutting-edge resources on these topics.

Fish stays aware of the current concerns of the researchers and program managers at CDMH by visiting the staff onsite at least once a week. Most of the CDMH staff is quite skilled at research but when they get stuck, they call Fish. One challenging CDMH research question for Fish has been how CDMH researchers might tap into social programs that combat the debilitating stigma attached to mental health disease. Even though traditional sources don’t address the “stigma” question, Fish has stretched her skills by contacting organizations about which additional resources would supply the answer to the CDMH team.

In addition to working on difficult reference questions, Fish is unearthing recent studies in the mental health field from which she produces an electronic bibliography to circulate to the CDMH staff twice a month.

Though the CSL’s role in assisting with this initiative is still evolving, the CSL and Peggy Fish are satisfying the specialized information needs of the CDMH by listening intently, studying the field, and developing strong library staff interest. Now that the CSL has successfully expanded library services to two state agencies, First Five and the CDMH, CSL leaders are considering using the two inter-agency contracts as alternative models for service to the rest of state government.

For more information about the CSL’s expanded services to state agencies, please contact Sabah Eltareb in the State Information and Reference Center at the California State Library at (916) 654-0040 or email her at seltareb@library.ca.gov.

  

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