North Carolina Consumer Advocacy, Networking, and Support Organization

Read about Dignity Dialogues.   May 4 is National Day of Dignity and Mental Health.  
National press release on Day of Dignity and Mental Health here.
Peer Centers as a community based solution!  
Collaborating across the field for progress, recovery outcomes.
Check out new blog entries at Ideas and Issues!
This writer examines this issue from different angles.
“If someone is forced to pursue treatment but services are not available then the purpose is defeated.  Forcing someone into treatment who has to negotiate the labyrinth of the current NC public mental health system with screenings and referrals and authorizations and then waiting to see the doctor since the doctor is COMPLETELY booked defeats the purpose of trying to provide timely and appropriate care to prevent de-compensation.”  
            See the rest of this article contributed by a clinician here.
Well-intended, Perhaps, But Misguided–Definitely!
Read Martha Brock’s update on HB 3717, “The Murphy Bill” for some of the concerns expressed by lead advocates nation-wide.  This bill reflects a different perspetive than that of those who know people can and do recover and that their ability to grow and reclaim responsibility in their lives is vital to their lives improving.  Removing recovery supports and forcing treatment are a recipe for disaster for too many citizens for this bill to become law!  Read more here.
Almost one month later:  LET US NOT FORGET!
While we are considering bills that threaten our civil rights (yes, much of what could happen with The Murphy Bill are issues of social justice) at the national and state levels (because we do have people pushing for stronger forced treatment laws in NC), only a month has passed since a young North Carolina citizen was murdered by a  law enforcement officer at close range.  Reportedly, the officer said, “I don’t have time for this.”  (This can only mean taking the time necessary to help a family whose son needed assistance getting to a hospital).  Young Keith Vidal, who was having symptoms of schizophrenia, weighed all of 90 pounds, had already been tazed and pinned down to the floor in the hallway of his own home by two officers.   The third officer, just having arrived on the scene, leaned right in between the other officers and shot him in the chest several times.  
My own son, now having left us almost five years ago by suicide, had a similar experience with police officers before.  They did not shoot him, but they beat him and tazed him and broke his arm in two places.  He was in the hospital in Oregon for two weeks.  He was only eighteen years old and victimized by SIX officers.  We don’t know why the police respond abusively all too frequently to people who are acting differently  because of the way their minds are working, but we know it must stop.  Because people who are acting differently because of mental disarray, influence of substances, or developmental issues are fully human.  They are not sub-human, and are due the rights of all citizens.  Innocent until proven guilty, due the assistance they need if they are in trouble.   Yet has stigma extended its ugly reach so far into society as to be the cause of abusive killing?  And what a harsh reality that so many officers are not held accountable for their own behavior after doing so much damage to or ending lives.
NC CANSO has begun advocacy on many fronts because we believe in the full citizenship of all people.  We are asking for non-police Mobile Crisis Response Teams or mental health crisis specialists to remain on call to be contacted by the community or by the police so that police can participate indirectly, but the actual face-to-face intervention is done by a “people whisperer,” as one of my friends says. 
We hope you will join us in our advocacy as we ask for the right services and training so that we have more “people whispering” going on–encouraging people to choose help toward recovery.  This is what we want and need–NOT forced outpatient treatment!s
Please stay tuned, and talk about this important issues with friends and colleagues.    We surely thank you.
JANUARY SADNESS:    Tragic Death of North Carolina Teen Calls for Change!
  ” . . .  The bottom line is that all lives are precious, and it is society’s responsibility to protect all citizens—even if they have a disability or a troubled mental status.   We must ensure that all people are safe, regrettably even from officers who are supposed to protect our safety.  Be assured that while there may be just a few officers who would make the tragic judgment and kill an innocent person, people who become law enforcers are different in makeup and in training from those who are prepared to help people in emotional or mental distress.  . . .” Read here for proposed solutions to this ongoing problem.
November’s Recovery Conference a Real Meeting of Minds and Hearts!
This year, the numbers and the mix of attendees at the fifth annual “One Community In Recovery”conference in Durham hit a tipping point that changed the dynamics from academic to transformational!  Yes, people have described the experience as personal, dynamic, exciting, and more akin to a large but instructional fellowship compared to conferences in the past.  Some have said the’d never experienced such an event like this before!  This year’s conference was titled Creating a Culture of Recovery, a validation of the deep and shared changes necessary in our thinking in order to achieve a system that promotes individual recovery by those who have mental health challenges or substance use disorders.  So why was this year’s conference so successful?
Was it the keynote speakers we had?  We opened the conference with Paulo Del Vecchio, the first person with lived experience with mental illness who has been promoted to the top of a major federal agency (Del Vecchio is the director of the Center for Mental Health Services, which is part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).   Paulo has watched the labored processes of advocates in North Carolina for years and challenged our state while also celebrating recent movement toward a recovery focus.  
Additionally, we had Dr. Judith Cook, a researcher from the University of Illinois at Chicago who has focused years of effort on consumer-informed topics such as self-determination, the role of employment in recovery, and her recent focus–the financial freedom as a strong contributor to long term recovery.   This topic was very well timed for our new services which can put individual focus on this issue with clients through peer support staff and clinicians.  There was so much interest from all perspectives of participants.
Was it the breakout sessions?   There were four different topics in each of five break-out sessions.  This means there were TWENTY TOPICS almost all by North Carolinians . There were topics on models of care, on measuring personal quality outcomes, new approaches to supporting family that promotes them best supporting a member impacted by extreme experiences.  There were updates on the growth of the peer movement, intergroup recovery dialogues, and a timely and provocative presentation on rights protection as an imperative for recovery.  I could go on.
I think it was the people!  It was a shared passion for recovery and its potential that brought us all a little out of our more passive moods–we got noisy together, laughed together, were more casual yet more focused on the good stuff!  And as many remarked, it didn’t matter whether we were a ‘consumer’ or a provider or a peer specialist or a family member or an agency staff or MCO staff–we were on an equal plane for a couple of days, sharing ideas, telling our stories, and just finding familiarity with a new way of doing things to feel good!  It leaves us looking forward to next year with enthusiasm.
Finally, it was exciting to have the interest of NC Health News, who has already posted coverage of the conference and found this new, exciting, and valuable health care information.
And the ‘recovery coalition’ that has met since last spring announced its new name and the fact that there is already a Facebook page and a web page to come:  North Carolinians for Recovery Oriented Care, AKA  NC ROCS!   You’ll be hearing more about this!
And the ‘recovery coalition’ that has met since last spring announced its new name and the fact that there is already a Facebook page and a web page to come:  North Carolinians for Recovery Oriented Care, AKA  NC ROCS!   You’ll be hearing more about this!



  PEERS ARE EMPOWERING MANAGED CARE PROVIDERS TO IMPROVE QUALITY OF CARE Read more about this and other new roles of peers and peer organizations in managed care organizations here. _________________________________________________________________ WRITING ABOUT RECOVERY IN THE CLASSROOM by Vickie Walker here. ___________________________________________________ RECOVERY CONFERENCE REGISTRATION DEADLINE fast upon us!    Don’t forget to register by October 30 for best prices.  Also, to get reduced hotel room rate, reservations must be made by October 23rdJoin use to hear from our two keynote speakers, the Director of the national Center for Mental Health Services Paulo Del Vecchio, who helped  usher the focus on mental health recovery to the forefront at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA)  and Dr. Judith Cook from the University of Illinois at Chicago, an internationally acclaimed specialist on what kinds of services help people recover and the on the value of self-determination for living a meaningful and progressive life.   Also, there is a pre-conference focused on training  providers to learn about recent service definitions.  Later, there are break-out sessions where several of your North Carolina peers will share on helpful topices regarding recovery.   This conference was planned largely by people who have the lived experience of having recovered from substance use disorders and from those who have lived with and recovered from mental illness.  The information at this conference will be inspiring and will help service users and providers learn together how to help our public service system move toward a recovery  outcome focus!  Please join us!  NC CANSO will sponsor an advocacy meeting to help us identify the hottest issues to advocate around!  For more information, go to



In conjunction with GreenTree Peer Center in Winston-Salem, The National Mental Health Consumer’s Self-Help Clearinghouse ( and NC CANSO are presenting an empowering two-day training on self-advocacy on September 19-20.

The proven curriculum was developed by the Clearinghouse with the involvement of a national association of protection and advocacy agencies.  The Clearinghouse is among the oldest technical assistance agencies funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency developed to help strengthen the ‘consumer’ movement and recovery movement.  Its director, Ms. Susan Rogers, has been recognized nationally several times for her contribution to our movement.  She is excited about coming to North Carolina to assist us in this way, and senses their has been some substantial growth in consumer advocacy in NC.

There are registration costs for the Freedom Self-Advocacy training, and lunch will be provided, but we need attendees to register so we can get an accurate head count, etc.  To register on-line or have a form mailed to someone who does not have a computer, please contact Laurie at  


National Coalition on Mental Health Recovery responds to coverage about ECT.  See Issues and Ideas.


Making Choices or Taking Chances during this Time of Change?




“It’s in recovery, Coker said, not institutionalization, that the state should be investing.”  (article by Taylor Sisk) NC CANSO urges caution about opening more hospitals before ensuring community services (see NC Health News) links



What about YOUR experiences?   If you are a client of North Carolina’s public mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services system, do you feel you have choice of services?  Please answer this brief 10 question survey to help NC CANSO better advocate for our peers!  NOTE:  you do not identify yourself in participating.  Also, since this is a free survey from Survey Monkey, they’ll have you answer a general pr-survey before turning to our Choice survey.

Just click on this link!  THANKS!


Ensuring the Role and Rights of System Users and Families article here


EXCITING if CONTROVERSIAL:   Presentation at National Convention Opening Minds!

Read this blog on Robert Whitaker’s presentation at the NAMI National Convention written by a NC local:


SUPPORT for SUPPORTERS!  Two new meetings are starting in NC where Peer Support Specialists can share their stories, their ideas, their needs as this relatively new service is growing in our state!  One is in Asheville and the other is in Greensboro.  Check our Events section for information and contact numbers for these.   Thank you to Rosemary Weaver and to  Mary Seymour who have taken initiative in their communities to help ensure that peer support is as beneficial to Peer Specialists and to their peer/clients as it should be!

NC CANSO takes stand on proposed cuts in services for people with addiction problems, including proposed closing of ADACTs.


Proposed Legislation a Moral Measure?

See article by Bonnie Schell.  Excerpt:

“If the rational reason for closing these three treatment centers is that they are no more effective according to research than outpatient treatment, then the legislature would be moving the money from closing the three centers to enhancing community outpatient treatment. But the budget doesn’t call for that. The Senate budget bill contains a $28 million cut in state funds for local substance abuse treatment.”


Read our position on cuts to group home funding.  



You must wonder where we’ve been.  Well, like many of you, we’ve been working hard as this year brings so many changes to our state.  Most are good.  Some are scary.  And there will be fall-out–people falling through the cracks who need our advocacy until they find some homeostasis in the system again.

NC CANSO Board Members have stayed as current as possible on so much going on.  We discuss details of the various work groups and initiatives as we learn of them, and several board members participate on various work groups where we can advocate for self-determination, dignity, real life outcomes (does a service really help a person live a better life?), engagement (real, balanced relationships between service providers and service users), etc.  I have written about some of these changes on this blog site.

One thing we are excited about is the hiring by DHHS of Jessica Keith, North Carolina’s Special Advisor on the Americans with Disability Act.  She was brought in to oversee the implementation of the North Carolina-Department of Justice Settlement which has followed the investigation and findings by the DOJ of our state’s institutional bias with regard to responding to the needs of the community of persons with mental illness.  Jessica is very rights-oriented and has a personal philosophy that supports the strengths of people as the foundation to build upon rather than fencing them in because of their deficits or passivity.   It is a sign of responsibility by our state’s leadership to have found someone of Jessica’s savvy and conviction and brought her here to ensure lasting change!

Another big change in our state besides the DOJ initiative is that advocates, leadership, and a growing number of providers are ready to embrace the turning of this big ship from its former “medical” orientation  to one that aims to help people truly recover!  That is, we are currently focused on managing symptoms and on crisis care more than on helping people live a healthier life of growth where they can recover.  Now, between the mandates to contain costs of care and the moral call to help people live more independently and to find themselves outside of their illness, our state is starting to move in a new direction!  As consumer advocates, we are happy because we have been urging the state to take a clear step toward developing and agenda for a recovery oriented systems for the past two years!

DHHS is planning a one-day Recovery Summit, a working meeting to include staff from LME/Managed Care Organizations, many consumer advocates, and several other stakeholders to establish foundational concepts upon which to build recovery policy and next steps.  Because of the fixed amount of dollars for this, the attendance is limited (hopefully the Recovery Conference will be a good place for larger follow-through!).  The key presenter and leader of this discussion is Mr. Harvey Rosenthal, who opened many eyes about our convenient timing to move toward a recovery focus when he was with us in November at the annual Recovery Conference.

Other changes coming at us fast are related to financial resources in our state and the fact we have a new leadership.  As ‘consumers’ we should advocate for an efficient system for billing and authorizing services so that we don’t lose valuable service providers.  After all, a consumer’s choice of whom he/she has as a provider should be a state’s value, just as we value other things that make people appreciate full citizenship!

Keep checking us out for more news and thoughts.



How our decision-makers and the rest of our culture respond to the event in Connecticut matters to our futures as persons with mental illness and potentially other disabilities!  Read one peer’s thoughts HERE.    Read also about “The Dangerous List”  here.


North Carolina Mental Health Services Will Begin the Year with a Bang!

Trainings about new changes have begun in January!

“Our state just did not have the political will to implement the actions necessary to ensure people lived more humanely and at least had a choice about where they were placed beyond hospitalizations.  But because of The Department of Justice motivating us, now we do have the will, and this will help our state come forward as a people who desire a humane culture.  So a broader approach to screening people out of facility settings has recently been developed and will be fully operational shortly.”  (Read more about changes here.) ____________________________________ Subtitled “Turning Vision into Reality,”  Recovery Conference Marks Tipping Point for Change! This year’s “One Community in Recovery” conference on November 14 and 15 was the best of the four that have been held.  First, let me say that for many, the title of the conference has begged the question, “Recovery from what?”  Because anyone living in North Carolina and who cares about the lives of people with mental illness knows there is a lot our collective community has to recover from and on many levels.  And then there is the future.  Read more.


We Challenge Our State!

” . . . In North Carolina, if we are to ensure that life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness are available to all, then we have some hard thinking and much shared work ahead as we dismantle unacceptable systems and replace them with services that actually cost less and allow people with disabilities full citizenship and the right to grow healthier.”   Read more here!

Let us know what YOU think!  It’s important to us.  You can comment after the article when you click on the link.  


  * * *


DHHS   North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services, the part of our goverment that is lead by the governor’s appointed Secretary of HHS (in our case, we have Secretary Cansler).  His office is tasked with directing the funding and services for health and safety needs.   Many of our most current interests relate to mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse service needs.  However, the Secretary’s department must also work on ensuring primary health care needs, safe drinking water, clean restaurants, and many other areas.  SO, Secretary Cansler has developed a new role to help him in his effort toward mental health services in the last two years, the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health within DHHS.

DMH or DMHDDSAS North Carolina’s Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services, a subdivision of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

LME     “Local Management Entity”  A mental health care management organization charged with developing and overseeing an adequate local public service system that allows citizens ease of access to the appropriate services when they need them.  LMEs are to ensure service value (quality for the expenditure) and reduce the need for citizens to go to emergency settings by linking them to the right services early when people need them.

LOC     The Legislative Oversight Commitee on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilites, and Substance Abuse Services.

DMA     The Division of Medical Assistance, the division which is responsible for ensuring that persons eligible for medicaid have necessary services available across our state.  Also, DMA is responsible for ensuring that medicaid dollars are used responsibly.

Comments on: "North Carolina Consumer Advocacy, Networking, and Support Organization" (1)

  1. Quote (test): “Friends are relatives you make for yourself.” Eustache Deschamps

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