Perceptions of Community Involvement in the Peruvian Mental Health Reform Process Among Clinicians and Policy-Makers: A Qualitative Study


The global burden of mental health conditions has led to the implementation of new models of care for persons with mental illness. Recent mental health reforms in Peru include the implementation of a community mental health model (CMHM) that, among its core objectives, aims to provide care in the community through specialized facilities, the community mental health centers (CMHCs). Community involvement is a key component of this model. This study aims to describe perceptions of community engagement activities in the current model of care in three CMHCs and identify barriers and potential solutions to implementation.

A qualitative research study using in-depth semi-structured interviews with clinicians from three CMHCs and with policy-makers involved in the implementation of the mental health reforms was conducted in two regions of Peru. The interviews, conducted in Spanish, were digitally recorded with consent, transcribed and analyzed using principles of grounded theory applying a framework approach. Community engagement activities are described at different stages of patient care.

Twenty-five full-time employees (17 women, 8 men) were interviewed, of which 21 were clinicians (diverse health professions) from CMHCs, and 4 were policy-makers. Interviews elucidated community engagement activities currently being utilized including: (1) employing community mental health workers (CMHWs); (2) home visits; (3) psychosocial clubs; (4) mental health workshops and campaigns; and (5) peer support groups. Inadequate infrastructure and financial resources, lack of knowledge about the CMHM, poorly defined catchment areas, stigma, and inadequate productivity approach were identified as barriers to program implementation. Solutions suggested by participants included increasing knowledge and awareness about mental health and the new model, implementation of peer-training, and improving productivity evaluation and research initiatives.

Community engagement activities are being conducted in Peru as part of a new model of care. However, their structure, frequency, and content are perceived by clinicians and policy-makers as highly variable due to a lack of consistent training and resources across CMHCs. Barriers to implementation should be quickly addressed and potential solutions executed, so that scale-up best optimizes the utilization of resources in the implementation process.

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