”How’s That Working For Ya?” and Other Favorite Things from the 6th Annual One Community in Recovery Conference

Steve Miccio, a favorite presenter at the ‘Recovery Conference’ conference this year, has a favorite comment that he uses when he is trying to provoke thoughtful responses. It’s not really just a comment–it is kind of a challenge:  . . . “How’s that working for ya?” he says to his staff at the respite and hospital diversion houses and he uses it with policy makers and others.  I love the comment because it causes a listener to pause and evaluate whether an approach or action is yielding the results actually sought.  Steve, one of the early consumer turned providers in New York, shared about the role of peer specialists in responding to people in crisis, including the peer respite model.  He also shared a very engaging presentation on developing peer operated services, and interest of many here in North Carolina.  And in many of his instructional stories, he would tell about asking someone, “How’s that working for ya?”  It was kind of tongue-and-cheek, but it was also honestly intended.  I really liked it.

The Recovery Conference is a great place to come together each year to consider new ideas, to refuel, and to ask ourselves about our work together in our state–how’s this working for us?  And more to the point, what can we each do to have the best yields from our efforts, whether they are advocacy or service efforts or policy efforts?

This year, there were many participants from the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services.  We had staff from other departments of DHHS as well!  There were staff there interested in crisis solutions, there were some there interested in promoting recovery through our current Transitions to Community Living initiative.  We hope they learned a lot, as many of us did, from the various presentations.

We also had a productive advocacy meeting on the first evening and decided on a couple of new ideas:  Invest in Recovery will be a new advocacy theme in our state and beyond, likely to be rallied through NC CANSO and the coalition, NC ROCs.  Furhter, we created a petition with space for personal input by conference attendees which we had signed by more than sixty people which will go to Representative Ellmers’ office as well as Representative Walter Jones’ office to ask that they not support the ‘Murphy Bill’ but support a better, broader based bill that would be characterized respect the rights of clients.

We appreciated an inspiring keynote by Phillip Valentine from Connecticut, who has helped to develop a state-wide approach to building recovery communities where people with substance use issues could go to connect, learn, grow, and focus on re-building a life, healing beyond abstinence.   So much of what he shared was relevant to recovery of all kinds, and the folks in the room who have recovered from substance use habits were excited to hear his encouragement.

Our keynote on the second day Lyn Legere, shared her remarkable story, her hope, and the fact of how much money is saved in public dollars when a person stops depending on ‘the system.’   She spoke of the role of employment in recovery and validated the work many are doing with supported employment   with our new definition.  Lyn will now be living in North Carolina, working with Cherene Caraco through Promise Resource Network.  Yeah!

Our conference is growing by each year!  Attendance continues to climb.  Look for information about 2015 by late summer and be sure to register!

Also, to learn more about this year’s conference, you can read here:  www.northcarolinahealthnews.org/2014/12/01/changing-the-paradigm-for-mental-health-care-in-north-carolina/


It Just Won’t Be Done Without Us!

Autumn is a time when the ideas and concepts that generate change become clarified and shared at conferences, training, and other annual gatherings. Advocates and hopeful change agents (at whatever level) share both anxiety and anticipation as we face some of the largest challenges and opportunities on our path to a healthier, more inclusive, socially richer society.

The good news is that we have a perfect alignment of several factors that can only mean that if consumer and recovery advocates stay involved (and more become involved!) we can only move forward with ‘new paradigm’ thinking, behavior, and progress.

These factors are that finally, American society is finally embracing the need for dollars to buy value in health care and mental healthcare.  By value, we mean optimum results are purchased through management and service practice. (It’s about time–but that is another story!). So services in both the public and private sectors will have to become leaner but yield more lasting and comprehensive health results, which means health care will need to embrace far more than medical treatment.  This causes health care systems to reconsider many old assumptions compels all interested in mental health to welcome innovations based in new thinking.  This is where system advocacy has a newly relevant voice, and we must be getting ready to offer values-based messaging and solutions.

Providers and administrators are setting new priorities, for instance addressing the health risks associated with social isolation (a major problem for people with chronic illness and especially for many with complex mental health challenges) will be taken seriously as providers seek to help people have improve health outcomes.  What does this mean?  We MUST enhance health care with peer support so that linkage to services and supports in the community happen like never before. We should certainly also count on the establishment of community based peer-operated wellness centers as a social and educational adjunct to improve lifestyle and health and to energize people to be come restless for better health!

Another exciting factor in the revolution of health care in our country is the resolve that we will care for the whole person–at least mind and body–together.  People can not be treated successfully as long as we segregate mental health out of health care.  We have finally hit the tipping point on this issue.  So we will need people who can support mental and physical health care together, who can provide peer-to-peer support and challenge old assumptions people may have about taking care of themselves.  So we need to be working to advance the role of peers trained as wellness coaches in our state so that in both the mental health and primary care arenas, they can offer the real-life self-help to people in their communities–even in their homes!  We will also see public health care engaging many more socio-economic factors that threaten health and mental health, and promote substance use disorders.  The statistics on these influences can no longer be ignored. This is and area that smart, informed advocacy can result in better solutions as systems and services are developed and delivered.

Now more than ever, PROACTIVE advocacy is needed at local and state system levels by consumer advocates, family advocates, and recovery advocates, including peers!  Systems advocacy has a new relevance, because system results will not be sufficient without our input!  And measuring system effectiveness will depend on new metrics based in personal values and experiences!   As stated by someone recently, put the focus on what the system actually does, not on all the processes involved in doing it.  If the results in people’s lives are not positive changes in health and the quality of their lives, then they have been failed and the system will prove to be unsustainable.  THIS is the argument we must take with us when we ask to be involved in any way we can in giving input into system improvement!  If ever the light has been shined on the need for customer feedback to inform system developments and improve the end results, it is now!