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Mental Health Officials Gather In Philly To Learn

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Mental health officials from all over the world visited Philadelphia Tuesday, drawn by the city's approach to addressing behavioral health issues.

It's not often New York would concede to having something to learn from Philadelphia, but that city's deputy health commissioner Gary Belkin says it drew heavily on Philadelphia's behavioral health approach in designing its own.

"Some of the inspirations we got from Philadelphia included how to get more of city government involved, and how to think about how to work with communities much better, and also the treatment system for public health objectives, not just treatment objectives. So a lot of really good things happening here that now we're all learning about," said Belkin

Officials from eight countries made the trip to get tips on how to import Philadelphia's public health approach to mental illness.

From de-stigmatizing the need for service by partnering with respected community organizations, to pro-active screenings in high traffic spots such as Jefferson regional rail station.

"What they were struck by here is the scale that we're doing it on and the fact that we got traction in ways that have really engaged a lot of people," said Behavioral Health Commissioner, Dr. Arthur Evans, who hosted the gathering.

"It addresses many sectors need to be involved in solving what may be one of the most pressing challenges we have: to make mental health really become a central focus," said Sweden's Health Commissioner Fredrik Lindencrona.

Also attending were health officials from Australia, New Zealand, and the British Isles -- members of the
International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership.

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