On page thirty-seven of the Strategic Plan for Improving Behavioral Health in North Carolina this document briefly addresses peer support. It states that “Peer Support can be an important component of substance use disorder treatment.” It thens sets out describing the virtues of peer support. However, it lacks some important substance and this omission sadly has charactarized a troubling and seemingly prevalent attitude among leaders of our state’s service system.
There is no language that suggests the plan values peer support as a crucial means for helping people with mental health challenges to recover!
Sadly, this statement parallels the history we have experienced in our state that resources that could be used to help our brothers and sisters with mental health challenges (funds, service development that promotes mental health recovery, mental health consumer orgazing), are being used otherwise. We cannot even get funding for an active consumer networking organization–which is why NC CANSO has for nine years remained a network instead of an empowering organization reaching into communities and engaging our peers toward better lives. But alternatively, mental health consumers in North Carolina do not have nearly the resources made available for empowering them. Grants for operating local peer agencie. Funds to seed other substance use recovery networks. Toss us a bone! We recover, too!
Or do the staff at the Divsion of MHDDSAS perhaps question that we can recover meaningful, contributing lives? I have actually asked two individuals if it were possible that they do not feel enough of us recover to to invest in us! I have received no answer Are they afraid to allow us to take on community responsibilities and support the growth of recovery-supporting outreach?
Resources are far more freely utilized for peer-operated efforts when people’s key “diagnosis” has been substance use. In fact, when two peer led community engaged agencies, both established by individuals with histories of mental ill-being, applied for a grant to open a first peer operated respite center, neither was selected. (Please note, these groups had 60 letters of support between them! They have operated as peer support centers for years!)
Instead, strangely the grant was offered to a third agency–one historically created to serve predominantly those whose challenge was substance use. It had been funded with grant dollars from the substance use budget. This agency, which is directed by a fine individual who is innocent of these tactics, received training (board members said that the agency had not heard of peer respite–had not really known what it was) technical assistance, and a very lenient deadline for getting into a proper respite house site. And they received the funds–reportedly from the Mental Health Block Grant, and not from the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.
Go figure. Is there discrimination happening here? Is there equity?
Can the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Sustance Use Treatment truly and honestly get behind the fact that people with mental health challenges (or I’ll use the dark phrase–Psychiatric Histories) can and DO recover? Do they not realize that often it is systems that disable us and oppress us and interrupt our growth and recovery? If current leaders don’t get this, then they need to go back to school for an update in their educationi: that RECOVERY SHOULD BE THE EXPECTATION and not the happenstance exception! Otherwise, we need well-educated, people-supporting leaders to replace them. Please!