This blog post is contributed by a Bridge Peer Worker and Bridge clients. Read more about how Bridge clients support each other and advocate for themselves through the Peer-to-Peer Program here.
Contributed by: Angela Cerio, Bridge Peer Facilitator, C.P.R.P.
On Wednesday April 3rd, four people from The Bridge headed to Albany for a full day conference titled "Recovery is for Everyone". The NYC DOH&MH's Office of Consumer Affairs sponsored us for travel and overnight accommodations in Albany. Getting there was half the fun. We left from The Bridge after [PROS] groups, and headed across the GWB to take Rte. 17 up to the NYS Thruway, stopping on the way for coffee and restroom breaks. We got to know each other much better as we chatted while I drove.
From left to right: Gary Rollins - Peer, Angela Cerio - Peer Facilitator, Laszlo Varga - Peer, Sharon Murphy - Peer
Once we got to Albany, we decided to go to dinner before checking into our hotel. The Capitol Buffet on Wolf Road was the ideal choice for dinner. Everyone got exactly what they wanted to eat – and all they could eat of it.
Thursday morning we made our way to the Marriott for registration and a continental breakfast. As we went in we saw Jody Silver, Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs for the NYC DOH&MH. I introduced her to the peers from The Bridge who her office had approved to come with me. I also ran into Jim Stone, former NYS OMH Commissioner, whom I served under on the MHPAC for several years. I mentioned that his old position is currently vacant and asked if he might consider another round as commissioner. "Once was quite enough!" was his reply.
Gary found four seats for us right upfront in the second row of the conference hall. After a few words about "Recovery and Transformation in Behavioral Health" by the sponsors – Community Care of Pittsburgh - Patricia Deegan, PhD gave the keynote address. I have been a fan of Pat Deegan for many years and her talk on "Balancing the Duty to Care with the Dignity of Risk" did not disappoint. Her talk was fascinating, and an excellent introduction to the mental health recovery movement for the three Bridge participants who accompanied me, Sharon Murphy, Gary Rollins and Laszlo Varga. The next speaker was Dr. Peggy Swarbuck from New Jersey's Collaborative Support Programs Institute for Wellness and Recovery Initiatives who spoke on "Promoting Wellness and Recovery by Living, Learning and Leading." Next, Lisa Dixon, MD, Director of Columbia University's Center for Practice Innovations spoke on the "Science of Recovery".
After lunch, Jody Silver, Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs, whom we met earlier on our way in, along with Meggan Schilkie, Deputy Director of NYC's Bureau of Mental Health, presented on PARACHUTE NYC, a new pilot program funded by the federal government which includes respite beds and a peer support component, hiring over 100 people with psychiatric histories.
Next came a panel discussion "Talking About Recovery" which gave three viewpoints by peers who are now working within the system about the language we use and how some words and phrases can be disempowering, reinforcing hopelessness and chronicity, while different ways of saying the same thing can lead to hope and empowerment. This presentation seemed to resonate most with the people I brought with me, and they've asked me to get more information on this.
After break, was the workshop "break-out" session, offering a choice of four presentations. We all decided to attend Pat Deegan's workshop on "Peer Staff as Disruptive Innovators". As the only peer staff leading service groups in The Bridge's PROS program, I found it extremely interesting.
After dinner, we headed home in the car my son had loaned me for the trip. The only anxiety I experienced this entire trip was the traffic once we got to Manhattan. The peers with me were extremely helpful in navigating to their residences when my GPS was of no help due to the tall buildings, tricky turns and one way streets in their neighborhoods. It took another hour to get myself home to Staten Island.
I enjoyed this trip immensely, and it was nice to have the opportunity to get to know the people I work with at The Bridge in such a stimulating yet relaxed atmosphere.
Thoughts on "Recovery is for Everyone" Conference:
Contributed by: Sharon Murphy - Bridge Peer
The conference "Recovery is for Everybody" was very educational for me. I learned a lot about the mental health system and new skills I can use to advocate both for myself and others. The whole experience enhanced my skills as an advocate and the attitude of professional people who spoke at the conference helped me understand more of my own diagnosis. Thank you for letting me attend.