2006 Conference General Sessions

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Lynn Gitlow
Husson College/Technical Exploration Center Street

One College Circle
Bangor ME 04401
Day Phone: 207-973-1074 iLl JUL 2 5 2005
Email: gitlowl©husson.edu

Jasemen Wade
Husson College
One College Circle
Bangor ME 04401
Day Phone:
Email: jazzybean@hotmail.com

The purpose of this applied research study was to investigate the AT knowledge, skills and perceived competence of CPRP’s. This study adds to previous studies conducted by this researcher investigating the perceived AT competence of allied and other health professionals (Gitlow, 2003; Gitlow and Sanford, 2003). The results of this research add support to efforts to improve training for rehabilitation professionals who often fail to recognize the role that AT can play in improving the functional abilities of their clients with disabilities. This is consistent with Goal 6-11 of Healthy People 2010, which is to reduce the proportion of people with disabilities who report not having the assistive devices, and technology that they need in the national effort related to eliminating health related disparities between people with and without disabilities in the U.S.

In the United States, an estimated 22.1 percent of Americans ages 18 and older or about 1 in 5 adults have a mental illness (NIMH, 2003). Five to seven percent of adults have a serious mental illness, and a similar percentage of children have a serious emotional disturbance. Of the 10 leading causes of disability both nationally and internationally four are mental health disorders (NIMH, 2003). Although people with psychiatric disabilities are increasingly included in every day activities, many barriers to their full inclusion continue to exist. There are many reasons cited in the literature for the barriers to inclusion for people with psychiatric disabilities including vocational, housing and attitudinal barriers, but one of the most important obstacles that are consistently identified is lack of access to environmental adaptations (Pratt, Gill, Barrett, Roberts, 2002; President’s Commission Report, 2003; Mills, D, 2002; Healthy People: 2010).

Environmental adaptations have been identified as one of twelve best practice principles that underlie psychiatric rehabilitation (Hughes, Weinstein, Baron, R., 2000). Environmental adaptations as described in the psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR) literature can also be defined as assistive technology. Assistive technology is defined “as any item, piece of equipment or product system whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized that is used to increase or improve functional capacities of individuals with disabilities. (Technology Related Assistance Act). AT that may be useful to people with mental illness includes a wide variety of devices form low to high technology. Some examples include memory devices, orientation devices, sequencing devices, medication devices and safety devices to name a few. Workplace accommodations for people with psychosocial disabilities must be considered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Although our federal government has formulated legislation to ensure the provision of AT, one of the most significant reasons AT is not utilized is that “expertise needs to be cultivated and expanded in pre-service preparation programs and other training venues” in order to educate expert practitioners in this area (O’Day et. al., 2000. pg 3). If this education is not provided, “expertise to assist in obtaining such technology ... will continue to fall further and further behind the need” (O’Day, 2000 pg 3). This is a serious problem given that the numbers of people with psychiatric disabilities who can benefit from AT. Practitioners who provide AT services come from a variety of professions including but not limited to occupational and physical therapy, speech and language pathology, education, vocational rehabilitation, and engineering. Additionally, practitioners who provide case management services, including psychiatric social workers and nurses, are critical in enabling consumers to obtain AT. During the past several years, Maine’s chapter of USPRA (Formerly IAPSRS, International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services) has increasingly voiced concern over the lack of AT education for psychosocial rehabilitations providers. The USPRA board discovered that presently there is no location where CPRP’s can obtain AT skills and knowledge. Clearly, increased access to AT education in the state of Maine is a priority A survey developed by Gitlow and Sanford (2003) was updated and used to answer the following research questions.
• What level of AT skills and knowledge do CPRP’s perceive that they have presently?
• What AT skills and knowledge would CPRP’s like to obtain?
• How would CPRP’s in the state of Maine like to have AT education provided?

The results of this research will add support to efforts to improve training for rehabilitation professionals who often fail to recognize the role that AT can play in improving the functional abilities of their clients with disabilities. It is critical to reduce the proportion of people with disabilities who report not having the assistive devices and technology needed (Healthy People 2010). Participants in this session will be presented with the findings from the study.

Gitlow, L. & Sanford, T. (2003). Assistive technology education needs of allied health practitioners in a rural state. Journal of Allied Health, 32(1)46-51.

Gitlow, L. (2003). Assistive Technology Education Needs of CT Practitioners in a Rural State.
Technology Special Interest Section Quarterly.

Healthy People 2010: Understanding and Improving Health: Disability and Secondary conditions.
Available on line at http://www.healthypeople.gov/DocumentlHTMLNolumel/O6Disability.htm# Toc486927299 Hughes, R.A., Weinstein, D., Baron, R. (Eds.) (2000). Best Practices in Psychosocial Rehabilitation International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services: Columbia, MD.

Mills, D. (2002). Healthy Maine 2010: Opportunities for All. Bureau of Health, Department of Human Services, Augusta, Maine.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (2003). The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America Publication No. 01 -4584 available online at



New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America. Final Report. DHHS Pub. No. SMA-03-3832. Rockville, MD: 2003 available online at www.mentalhealthcommission.gov

O’Day, B., Brewer, J., Cook, D., King, C., Mendelsohn, S., Pierce, K., & Vanderheiden, G. (2000) Federal policy barriers to assistive technology. National Council on Disability: Washington, DC [On-line]. Available: http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/assisttechnoloqy.html

Pratt, C., Gill, K., Barrett, N., Roberts, M (2002).Psychiatric Rehabilitation. Academic Press: New York.

Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988, PL 100-407, 29 U.S.C. 2201 et seq.

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