Persons impacted by mental illness, substance abuse problems, and developmental disabilities have long desired to impact positive change in our state’s service system. Many of these individuals have been very knowledgeable, learning how to follow the events and changes in other states across our country as consumers have become more empowered and services have been more consumer-shaped. North Carolinians have been excited by the new emphases on personal recovery and on the importance of self-determination in helping us each to achieve more by tapping our strengths. By educating ourselves through the internet, through conference attendance, and by networking with consumers beyond NC boundaries, several of our citizens have found ways to develop their leadership skills and better articulate concerns to policy makers and community stakeholders who can impact citizens’ lives at the local level in their home communities.
Once this networking reached a tipping point, consumer leadership met for a weekend work session facilitated by nationally known consumer advocate, Ms. Gayle Bluebird (February 2007). The document which arose from this meeting greatly improved the position of consumers to persuade legislators an independent organization would have a valuable and continuing role in promoting consumer voice and improved system developments.
As a result of consumer self-advocacy and many visits with legislators, by late spring 2007, The North Carolina General Assembly appropriated $60,000 to establish NC-CANSO. The North Carolina Council Community Programs agreed to serve as a fostering agency, assisting with technical assistance and with supporting the funding follow-through from the state. After this, a committee of consumer leaders from across the state began the process of developing our organization.