IF YOU WANT TO BROADEN THE MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE USE RECOVERY CULTURE IN POLICY AND PRACTICE IN OUR STATE, HELP US ADVOCATE FOR THIS BILL!
How can you help? TARGET THESE GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEMBERS and tell them we need the Peer Wellness Center Pilot Program in our state! (Bill number to be assigned mid-week after Easter)
Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee Chairs: Click on Senators Bishop and Krawiec to get contact information. Phone calls are best. Many legislators are reading fewer emails these days. If you send an email, copy it to their assistants and ask that they ensure their bosses get the message.
Leadership in the House of Representatives: Please advocate to any on the list who may represent your area. Focus may be more necessary on Republicans as they may be less informed about community level innovations and peer support and that these reduce need for hospitalization and would help NC become more successful at supporting integration for members of the Transitions to Community Living Initiative.
After targeted education and advocacy about the need for peer operated wellness centers as part of the community array of supports in our state, Representative Verla Insko is soon to introduce a billed called Peer Wellness Center Pilot Program. The bill spells out the purposes for these centers, objectives to be met and measured, and the fact that the bill calls for funding one rural and one urban pilot for two years. Pending the success of these two sites, our hope as advocates is that these will be expanded through time across many North Carolina communities. There are more than 45 such sites in Tennessee as well as many in Georgia. In Georgia, these sites have been the foundation to the development of peer respite centers as a logical second tier in peer support based wellness center expansion.
In North Carolina, there have been at least two strong mental health supporting centers developed by peer specialists and aimed at mental health recovery, which is similar but of necessity different from the more familiar substance use recovery models. One is Promise Resource Network in Charlotte, which has operated upward of 10 years. The other, GreenTree Peer Center, has operated almost 7 years. Each of these is funded by different means and operated in capacities according to their funding (while a strong and active presence in Winston-Salem, for instance, GreenTree can only be opened in the afternoons).
While these centers do serve people with dual recovery needs of mental health AND substance use, peer facilitators are prepared to work with people who may have extreme experiences (psychosis) with support that helps people adapt to some mental phenomena that do not respond to their medications. The centers are trauma-informed in approach and focus on harm reduction and safety promotion, which supplements the 12 Step recovery support model, many of which are already offered in communities, even in rural ones. (Many of our participants at GreenTree are also a part of the 12 step community in Winston-Salem).
THe funds for this pilot may come from the Mental Health Block Grant in order to ensure that the Mental Health population receives more focus and funding than it has, historically. (Note, the Substance Use Block Grant has funded community based initiatives that are independent of the formal provider system for several years. This would be a step into a brighter future where mental health recovery is truly recognized and valued and where its integration with physical health care is prioritized.) In many states, peer operated centers are a strong component of an integrated system.