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“Mental Health Awareness Month Kicks Off”

This article was found in the Cumberland County The Sentinel on May 4, 2009 and can be found at the following address …


he Cumberland/Perry Community Support Program committee kicked off Mental Health Awareness Month Friday with lunch, speakers and cake at the STAR Center in the Penrose Plaza in Carlisle.

A planned walk from the STAR Center to downtown Carlisle was canceled due to poor weather. The CSP committee is a group of people in recovery from mental illness, family members and professionals working together to help adults in recovery from serious mental illnesses live successfully in the community. CSP serves the thousands of Cumberland/Perry citizens who are in recovery from serious mental illness.

New SAMHSA publication

SAMHSA has recently released a new document entitled “Challenging Stereotypes”  it discusses the barrieres often faced by Consumers working alongside of more traditional professionals.  I haven’t read the entire document, but plan on finishing reading it over the next day or so, it is 35 pages long, so it’s not something I have the concentration to be able to read in a single sitting, but it is very well written and easily understood.

Here is a link to where you can download the file it is in PDF format … http://download.ncadi.samhsa.gov/ken/pdf/SMA01-3513/SMA01-3513.pdf

“Former addict finds support on road to recovery”

This article found in the Philladelphia Tribune originally printed on October 14, 2008 can be found in its original format at … http://www.phillytrib.com/tribune/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=501:recovery101408-hlt&catid=9:the-philadelphia-tribune&Itemid=20

The article describes the change that has transpired in the life of a person who has a dual diagnosis since she has begun her road to recovery.  She now works a a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) in the agency where she once sought help herself.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008 02:00
Former addict finds support on road to recovery

  Yoland Smith, a former behavioral health consumer, is now a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) through the Recovery Transformation program and now helps others in the recovery process.  — ABDUL R. SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

Ayana Jones
Tribune Staff Writer

Yolanda Smith has come a long way.

After 31 years of abusing alcohol and drugs, the 47-year-old Kensington resident never thought that she would overcome her addictions. Two years ago, she decided that it was time to seek help and begin the road to recovery.

“I was no longer afraid to seek help,” says Smith who was also coping with bipolar disorder, a condition that she believes helped fuel her addictions.

She sought out the services of COMHAR Inc., a provider for the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation Services. Smith was able to turn her life around by participating in the agency’s recovery program. She credits the program with helping her to recover from substance abuse, boosting her self-esteem, becoming a better mother to her 22-year-old son and enabling her to receive college training. Today she serves as a certified peer specialist and facilitator at COMHAR where she helps other addicts to recover.

“Recovery is possible,” Smith affirms.

Smith was one of a group of speakers who shared their stories during a press conference held at the Philadelphia Recovery Community Center at 1701 W. Lehigh Avenue. The site is the first of several planned centers that will offers a range of services including counseling, support groups and education.

Behavioral Health Department officials held the event to highlight sweeping changes in the way that it provides services to those who are battling both addictions and mental illness. Under the initiative, the department is moving from just providing treatment to clients to focusing on helping them recover.

“Transformation is about how we are evolving our system to focus on people who have behavioral health problems and substance abuse disorders,” says DBHMRS Director Arthur Evans.

“Inherent in every community is the wisdom to solve its own problems. I think that is what is at the heart of the recovery transformation — that it is a movement that is built on the idea that ‘you can do it, we can help.’”

With that in mind, the recovery transformation initiative focuses on providing care to consumers that promotes long-care recovery, resiliency and self-determination.

Evans referred to the transformation as the most sweeping change in the field since thousands of mentally ill people were release from institutions during the 1970s deinstitutionalization wave.

One of the core aspects of recovery transformation is the certified peer specialist initiative. Through the program, current or former behavioral health consumers are trained and certified to become peer specialists. As of September 49 graduates of the certification training have been employed as peer specialists.

Through a network of community-based provides, DBHMRS provides a full range of mental health and substance abuse treatment for approximately 100,000 consumers annually.

A couple new links

I found a couple new links that I added to the Peer Specialis” page, and have included them in this post as well.  They are both blogs, but very interesting.  Enjoy!

The Peer Empowerment Blog

The Peer Specialist Today (Blog)

“Peer Power Network”

This is a flyer I received about the Peer Power Network.

They will be meeting on August 27, 2008, see below for more details.

ŸAre you interested in or currently doing Peer Support?

ŸWould you like the opportunity to interact and share ideas with peers who share your interests?

ŸWould you like a voice in promoting Recovery and Peer Support across the state?


If yes, then join us for the kick-off meeting of the

Peer Power Network at

Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic

Auditorium, 2nd  floor

3811 O’Hara St.

Pittsburgh (Oakland), PA  15213

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

~Refreshments served~


To attend, RSVP by Thursday, August 21st  to Charlene Saner at (412) 246-5368 or by email at sanerc@upmc.edu


Limited free parking in the Western Psychiatric upper lot will be available.



Coordinated by

Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic

Consumer Action Response Team (CART)


The last Night of the PMHCA Conference

  This is the last night of the PMHCA Conference, and while I’m exhausted, I’m also excited about the many things I’ve learned and experienced.  I won’t be posting anything after this until I get home tomorrow at the earliest … then again, I may need to crash for awhile after I get home and recouperrate.  I can tell by looking at my Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD), Tippy, that she’s as exhausted if not more so then I am.  So, I think she’s looking forward to returning home to our normal day to day schedule of sorts.

  Tonight is a formal dance where folks are encouraged o dress up and dance the night away on the final night of the Conference.  I didn’t dress up, but Tippy did, and once I get home, I’ll post the picture of her in her formalwear.  I can’t remember if the outfit I put on her is a bride’s dress, or if it’s an angel costume, but Tippy was dressed for the occassion until she walked out of her dress as we went down the hall, so I ended up taking it off her until we got to the lobby where I redressed her so that a couple folks who I have begun to develope a friendship with could see Tippy dressed up, but then I took it off her again so she wouldn’t walk out of it again.  A couple people took pictures of her, and I told a couple folks that didn’t get to see her, that I was going to be posting the picture of Tippy dressed up here on the blog, but I need to wait until I get home to edit the picture so it might be a day or so before it shows up here.

  Earlier, I attended a workshop on Communicating through the media.  It was a fascinating workshop, and I plan on working on some of the new skills I learned in the workshop in future posts.  My brain is too fried to remember what I learned right now so I decided it wasn’t a good post to use my readers as guinea pigs for my newly learned skills and ideas.  With any luck you may see some improvement in my blogging, but it’s hard to say for sure since as the old addage goes, you can’t teach old dogs new tricks …. it’s not an entirely true addage …. just one that in my tired mind seemed fitting somehow.

  This afternoon, we had the chance to hear the caucas reports from the various caucuses that met yesterday.  After the various reports were given, Joan Earny, the Deputy Secretary of Mental Health in Pennsylvania, spoke to the group that was there and told us someone asked her if she would be speaking today, and her response was, “No, I’m here to listen.”  She did speak in response to some of the comments, concerns, and thoughts that were brought up in the reports, she also opend the floor up for questions and allowed folks to ask anything we wanted to.  Of course she reserved the right to not answer them, but I felt that was a reasonable thing for her to do.  Many questions were asked about topics such as funding, Certified Peer Specialists and their role in both the present and future.  Other topics that were hit on included the bill that Joan Erney thought had passed today, but wasn’t sure, that would ban smoking in public places, and hospitals.  She was under the impression that bars that sold very little or no food might be exempt, but that restraunts with full menues would not be exempt.  Many other topics were covered, but I don’t recall all of them.

  For now, I’m signing off and ill post again sometime after I get home.


Live from PMHCA Conference

  Day 2 is half over here t the PMHCA Conference.  I forgot to mention that this is their 20th conference they’ve held, but that there was a year when the Alternatives Conference and the PMHCA conference were close together so the PMHCA conference was canceled.  So, if you want to be technical, this is the 21st conference scheduled, but the 20th to be held.

  After breakfast today, Ron Bassman, the keynote speaker spoke on his life experiences as both a patient in the mental health system in the 60’s and later a professional.  He offered many quotes of inspiration, read excerpts from his book, and in general built on how we need hope in order to overcome our obstacles, and that no matter what label society may put on us, we’re still people of value.  It isn’t what we are labeled as that makes us who we are, but rather what we do to overcome the lable that makes us who we are.  I’m going to be getting more information from Ron Bassman at  some point, and when I do, I will include some of his words in a future blog entry.  I left his presentation feeling encouraged and uplifted and in a sense as though I had received new marching orders to go forth and proclaim hope and encouragement to others while embracing them myself so that I can build on these things in my own life.

  We broke off into workgroups after Ron Bassman was done speaking.  I attended one on, “The Many Doors to Consumer Empowerment”.  I received a hardcopy of a document that explains how various organizations work together to form the mental health system, in addtion to explaining various accronyms, such as CSP, C/FST …etc.  the group was encouraged to get involved in the various plans such as County Mental Health Plan, and Service Area Planning.  Other areas we were encouraged to get involved in included, CSP at the local, regional, and state level if possible.  Also we were encouraged to ask questions about the various plans that ultimately dictate what will be implimented into the menal health system, or what will be dropped.  We should find out why service X is available in one part of the state and not in our part of the state in addition to finding out what we can do to take an active role in molding and shaping a Recovery Oriented mental health system.

  In addition to info I learned in the workshop, I’ve gathered a bunch of handouts from a wide variety of places since I arrived here.  I hope to offer at the least summaries of some of the info so others might benefit from it at well.

  For now, I’m signing off but will be posting more either later today or sometime tomorrow.


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