Delaware's Mental Health Consumer Resolution Hotline: A Policy Analysis

Alexia Wolf, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Sweeping reforms were implemented in Delaware’s public mental health system from 2011 to 2016 as the result of the Olmstead settlement agreement with the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) and the state of Delaware in order to expand the availability of community-based services. Delaware’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH) created a 24-hour, toll free, statewide hotline in 2013 for individuals with serious and persistent mental illness to report issues with their mental health services. The resolution hotline represents an important component of a robust community-based system of care, particularly for the highly vulnerable group identified for discharge from the Delaware Psychiatric Center (DPC) after lengthy stays by the USDOJ. This policy analysis established the public health significance of Delaware’s resolution hotline through review of the relevant literature, summary of the development of the hotline and the effort led by the author in 2016 to redesign the process for capturing and resolving complaints, and creation of a blueprint for enhancements to the resolution hotline from a public health perspective. Recommendations for how DSAMH can best gather and utilize data on complaints and grievances about mental health services is a particular focus because of the paucity of data in the literature on complaints by consumers of behavioral health services. The rationale for this analysis is the vital importance of shifting from system-based quality measures that only reflect the provider point of view, to quality measures that include the point of view of the individuals participating in the services. Proposed enhancements include creating a handbook on how to make complaints and submit grievances, adopting a uniform statewide policy for complaints and grievances, utilizing grievance coordinators at provider agencies, and creating an online self-advocacy toolkit. There is a nationwide lack of data on complaints about public mental health services. Delaware’s complaint resolution process is data driven and aids in closing this gap. The hotline helps retain people with serious and persistent mental illness in treatment services which has tremendous public health significance.^

Subject Area

Mental health|Medical ethics|Public health

Recommended Citation

Wolf, Alexia, "Delaware's Mental Health Consumer Resolution Hotline: A Policy Analysis" (2017). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10608255.