The Meriden Family Program as one of many launched in the West Midlands region in 1998 aimed at promoting evidence-based health care and getting research implemented in practice. However, it is the only one that has been sustained—a testament to its contributions to mental health care in the United Kingdom and internationally.
The Meriden Family Program began working in the area of family interventions for schizophrenia even prior to the publication of the UK’s NICE Schizophrenia Guidelines in 2002. These guidelines stipulate that family interventions should be offered to 100% of families in which a member experiences schizophrenia. Over the past 15 years, Meriden has built the capacity of services to deliver quality, evidence-based family interventions through training and organisational development.
Although it is based in Birmingham, UK, and is part of the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Meriden also provides consultation and training throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. Recent commissions have included Capital District Health Authority and the Department of Health and Wellbeing, Nova Scotia, and the Health Service Executive, Ireland. Meriden has also developed links and provided training for clinical staff working in Canada, Australia, Uganda, Singapore, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Japan, and Jersey.
The main objectives for the Meriden Family Program are:
- To train and supervise multi-disciplinary groups of clinicians, along with service users and carers, in evidence-based family interventions and to adapt this training to suit specialist areas within mental health services
- To ensure that the structure of family interventions delivered is consistent with an evidence-based model of Behavioral Family Therapy (BFT) which includes all the components defined within the 2009 NICE Guidelines for Schizophrenia. The Meriden model also complies with the Family Intervention competences specified within the IAPT Program for Severe Mental Illness.
- To maintain contact with managers and key individuals within services; to identify barriers to the implementation of family work and develop solutions for overcoming them; to bring about attitudinal and organisational change resulting in family work becoming embedded in services
- To ensure that mental health service provision is ‘family sensitive’ and provides a range of services and supports consistent with the “Triangle of Care” best practice guidance
A recent focus of the Meriden Family Program is on addressing the needs of those caring for people with long-term mental health problems, which are often unmet and ignored by services. The program now offers a range of training sessions in addition to family intervention training— including sessions on carers and confidentiality and in facilitating carer psycho-education and support groups (the “Caring for Carers” program).
Further, Meriden is concerned with implementing government policy and guidelines relating to improving services for the carers and family members of those experiencing mental health problems. The aim has been to link developments for the delivery of evidence-based family work with the involvement of carers across organisations (locally and nationally) to ensure that work is not duplicated and collaboration is encouraged.