Introducing the “Designed to Fail” series


Mon, 10/03/2022 – 21:15

By Mary Giliberti, Chief Public Policy Officer

So often, we as mental health advocates say, “the mental health system is broken,” as if someone knocked it over accidentally and it broke. But the reality is that the system is dynamic and was not designed for success. Mental health service providers and the experiences of people who receive mental health services are systemically undervalued to the benefit of some of the largest industries in America – hospitals, private equity firms, health insurers, and associations. At the same time, other industries, mainly social media, are allowed to wreak havoc on our mental health with impunity.

The idea for this blog series came about when I heard yet another prominent mental health expert say that the mental health system is “broken” and I realized how often I had used this same passive, defeatist phrase. I was reminded of the difference between my painted ceramic vase – a wedding gift that was accidentally broken years ago by an unnamed family member – and a cheap, thin, plastic container that cracked when I put it in the dishwasher. One broke in an unfortunate mishap. The other was poorly made and designed to fail.

So what are the design flaws that make it so hard to get high-quality mental healthcare? Frederick Douglass once said, “power concedes nothing without a demand,” but first you must identify who has the power, who does not, and how they must concede it. 

When thinking about markets and what contributes to a well-functioning economic system, transparency is key and economic incentives must align with outcomes for the end user. In mental health care, we generally have no concept of the quality of what we are receiving, and the person using the service is completely removed from those paying for it. This disconnect drives the lack of incentive and accountability to pay for convenient, high-quality care. When I decide to go to a restaurant, I can find information on the quality and quantity of the food, as well as the service. I can go to the restaurant website and learn about their signature dishes and what they will cost. Restaurants have an incentive to provide information and care a lot about customer reviews. These incentives align with my getting a good meal. In contrast, when I need mental health care of any kind, it is very difficult to get information on the quality and cost. And generally, employers, states, or the federal government buy mental health care. Users and their experiences and outcomes are completely separate from that process.

One of the biggest challenges for mental health advocates is the volume of issues and misalignments in incentives. If you are fighting on too many fronts, it is impossible to make a difference, especially against such powerful forces. So, this blog series will not try to address everything that is wrong with the mental health system. Instead, it will look at some of the biggest economic forces in experience and payment and how they affect access to care. We will look at the implications of these economic forces on equity and disparities.

This new blog series is designed to reframe how we talk about mental health – from a broken system to a behavioral health care delivery system that is designed to fail – in specific ways, to the benefit of specific powerful entities. And the series will offer suggestions for how it can be designed for success. We are releasing the first blog along with this overview and hope you will come back for monthly installments. In the meantime, I urge you to strike “the mental health system is broken” from your web pages, speeches, and everyday discussions. If you slip up, send an alert to your members of Congress from Mental Health America’s advocacy web page and rededicate yourself to identifying and designing better systems.  Say it with me – the mental health system is designed to fail, but we can change it.

Read the first blog in the series.


The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will house a “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center, that will provide case management, mental health community advocacy, and oversight from the M.I. Mother’s Keeper mental health advocates. 
The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will offer patrons access to immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
Our goal is to help people in the best way possible in an effort to preserve and to save more lives in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

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Code Red
Gunshot Victim
Life Threatening Wounds
Physical Assault Victim
Severely Injured Auto Accident Victim
Burn Victim
Choking & Breathing Obstructions
and more…


Child Sex Assault Victim
Domestic Violence Victim
Drug Overdose
Rape/Sex Crime Victim
Suicide Watch
Trafficking Victim
Nervous Breakdown
and more…

Mental Health

At Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center patrons with mental health emergencies that include life threatening situations in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function or is otherwise distraught and out of control, will have access to quality and psychiatric emergency services and referrals.

Physical Health

Whether your life threatening medical emergency involves excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, head injury. difficulty with breathing, severe pain, heart attack, vision impairments, stroke, physically collapsing, or seizure related, rest assured that our professionals will properly assess and evaluate the level of response that will be most needed to help provide stabilized care solutions and minimize complications as well as reduce early mortality.

Holistic Healthcare

We offer healthcare solutions that will support the whole person which includes their physical, psychological, emotional, social, & spiritual wellbeing. Research supports that because your mental state can affect your overall health we support and offer the inclusion of complimentary and alternative medicine(CAM) practitioners and naturopathic doctor recommendations and referrals as a part of our Outreach Community Resource Center’s care regimen and support.


Emergency care can typically result in traumatic injuries for which rehabilitation becomes an essential component of care in trying to achieve the best long-term outcomes for the patient. In addition to speeding up recovery times and helping to prevent further complications, rehabilitative care also helps to support a patient’s self-managed recovery once discharged from our facility. Our Outreach Community Resource Center works closely with our trauma center’s discharge department to assure that patrons requiring these services are linked with qualified professionals who will be accountable to the standard of care required to help the patron be successful in their recovery.

Social Services

Our “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center intends to promote “expansive” beneficial community enriching services, programs, case management, & linkage to “approved” partner resources and supports in all of the following intended areas and more:

Social Services

  • Clothing
  • Food Pantry
  • Housing/Shelter
  • I.D. Credentials
  • Senior Wellness Check
  • Toiletries
  • Transportation
  • Etc.

Extended Family Services

  • Child Care
  • Credit Counseling
  • Family Court Services
  • Legal Aide

Career Training

  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Computer/Graphics Training
  • Culinary Program  
  • GED Courses
  • Hospitality Training
  • Job Etiquette & Grooming
  • Resume’ Prep
  • Sales Training
  • Software/Technology workshops
  • Small Business Training

Return Citizen
Program Partner
(Bridging the Gap)

  • Case Management
  • Temporary Boarding/Housing
  • Transitional Program Registration

Prevention/Intervention Outreach,
Workshops, & Programs

  • After-school Behavioral Health Program
  • Civic Engagement / Volunteer Sign-up
  • Fatherhood Rites of Passage
  • Gun Violence Town Hall Forum
  • Life Coaching & Coping Strategies
  • Marriage Counseling Workshops
  • Medicare Informational Workshops
  • Mentorship Training
  • Parental Classes
  • Support Groups
  • Town Hall Discussions
  • Violence De-Escalation Training
  • Voter Registration

Nutritional Outreach

  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Dietary Programs
  • Exercise Classes
  • Recipe Sharing Workshops
  • Meal Prep

Community Outreach

The Healthy DC & Me Leadership Coalition is partnering with the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health advocacy organization to provide outreach services on the community level as an aid in reducing the existent health inequities that many District citizens are facing as a direct result of the presence of debilitating social determinants and the lack of culturally appropriate care choices and realities for community members residing in marginalized and lower-income communities.

It is the vision and intentions of the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health Advocates organization to help improve the quality of living for citizens living in our Nation’s Capital and beyond by overseeing the delicate linkage to services and by maintaining higher standards of care accountability for deserving citizens of the Nation’s Capital.

For more information or to enroll as one of our service providers, please email us at: