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Where I’m at

My subject for this post is one based on personal opbservations about the area I live in as it pertains to the mental health community.  Some folks may have caught my comment in the past couple days where I indicated that the area I live in seemed isolated from the rest of the mental health community.   To be clear, this isn’t to say that I don’t like where I live, just that there is a lot of work to be done here to get us caught up to other parts of Pennsylvania when it comes to mental health related issues.

I live in Warren County which is located in Northwestern, PA a large portion of my county is part of the Allegheny National forest, so it does have natural beauty.   The City of Warren sits just about dead center of Warren County it is the county seat and to my knowledge among the largest cities in the county though compared even to Erie, PA, Warren is pretty small when it comes to cities.  I have joked that there is no direct route from this area to anywhere, which really if you look at a map of the area and see that I-86 in NY state is about 30 to 45 minutes from Warren, and Erie is about 2 hours, with Pittsburgh beign about 3 hours away.  I have been places that I had driven for several hours to attend them and people were shocked that I wouldn’t have flewn to get to the location.  In reality I would have had to drive almost as far as what my destination was from me to get to an airport, so driving is actually simpler in many ways despite the length of time it takes to get places. 

Geographically in some sense Warren is somewhat isolated, which I feel is what in some ways is both a blessing and a cuse for this area.  it’s good, because we have our own pace when it comes to life in general, the area has a sort of smalltown feel and in general our crime rate is pretty low compared to Erie for example.  So there are good things about this area.

On the other hand, we tend to lag behind when it comes to other things, like recovery oriented treatment.  I have been hearing about other places that have had this type of treatment in place for at least several years, which had been exciting for me to hear about, but at the same time a source of frustration, because I saw other places where folks who like me happened to be diagnosed with a mental illness, being encouraged to think for themselves, make choices about their treatment, and in general encouraged to participate as much as they were able to in their treatment.  While I saw other places seem to progress with leaps and bounds, I watched painfully as my county resisted recovery oriented treatment and stayed with what they knew … a more medical model style of treatment where they felt their decisions about what was best for us was what needed to be done and what we as consumers felt didn’t really matter much.

Things have been shifting over the past year, and there has been a sort of shift in power here in Warren County.  Beacon Light has taken over what I think may be a large portion of the services that were once provided by the county.  So, there has been a shift from County run to privatization here.  This shift was one I welcomed, though I admit it is an adjustment for me getting use to not feeling like every request I have is falling on deaf ears or simply being disregarded.  Many of the folks here I’m willing to bet didn’t have a clue what recovery oriented treatment was before the shift to Beacon Light.  I’ve been told that one of the struggles that Beacon light has had has been in convincing folks they do have choices and that they can and should make decisions about their treatment and not just sit back and do what smeone else decides they should do.

I went to Pittsburgh not too long ago, and while I was there, I was amazed at how friendly the majority of the folks I met there were, people said hi to my Mom and I as we walked down the street, and if we had a question about something it seemed like no matter who we asked, we got friendly helpful information.  Nobody cared that I was walking around with a Service Dog, there I was just another person, I believe that this was so, because  Pittsburgh is much larger then where I live and people are use to seeing things that in my area would be strange or unusual so they really don’t bat an eye when a Srvice Dog is accompanying someone or a stranger has a question about the area.   Pittsburgh is much more open and accessible then what my area is. and I think that is one reason that I came to realize how isolated I was from other places, not just geographically, but also when it comes to our way of life and ow we view things.

I like where I live, but I think we have some unique obstacles that places like Pittsburgh and Erie for example don’t have.  This makes the Warren area both a wonderful place and in some ways creates a vaccuum where outside information comes in, but somewhere between it’s entrance and the majority of the folks in the area, the information gets lost in a sort of ‘black hole’ kind of effect.  It is a strange place because of what I guess you could call the local quirks.

In many ways when it comes to being aware of things like the Recovery Movement or Consumer/Survivor movement and many other similar groups working to improve the mental health system, I am slightly more aware then many folks in my area because of my craving for information which had lead me to spend countless hours online looking for information on any question that crosses my mind.  I also when against the norm in my area and took the initiative to attend meetings such as WRCSP and other similar groups when I could.  I haven’t been able to do that recently because I lack a vehicle, which was also a factor that caused me to feel like I am disconnected or isolated from the rest of the mental health community.  Where I live a car is petty much a requirement and if you don’t have one there are many places you will never get to go on your own.  Unlike the larger cities where there are people who have never owned a vehicle because they didn’t need one since everything was close by or easily accessible by mass transit.  I guess when folks in cities look at my area they probably think we’re somewhat backwards in how we do things, and in realty I tink it’s safe to say that the things folks in larger cities do, seems a little backwards to me as well.

I guess my point in writing all this, is to offer some explenation as to why my blog seems to frequently get “stuck” on a given topic …. I can only blog about what I am able to uncover online since there is very little in my local paper I rely on the internet for my source of information for this blog.   I know a few people in other parts of PA and they graciously help me out by sending info my way from tim to time, so they deserve some credit for some of my content here as well.  There are times that if it weren’t for my friend in Pittsburgh, the gap between posts would be much greater then it is.

I welcome suggestions about things that are happening as they pertain to the mental health community  from anyone in Pennsylvania.  I can’t promise I will blog about everything I receive, but I would at least consider pieces of info that might be sent my way.   Organiztions holding events, hot topic impacting folks with mental health issues, my scope is very broad in what I would consider and my basic rule of thumb is that is has to have something to do either directly or slightly indirectly with an impact on folks with mental health issues or those who are professionals or familiy members of folks with mental illnesses.

I’m setting up a contact page tonight that will include the various ways I can be contacted and information sent to me.    I would love to hear from folks and learn more about what is happening in the menta health community in other parts of Pennsylvania.  Who knows  your info might get me onto a completely new topic I hadn’t been able to locate before 🙂

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