Why Do We Need United Peer Advocacy?

There are numerous peer organizations throughout the county, with funding, speaker’s bureaus, meetings and access to the rich resources of DMH, NAMI, Pacific Clinics, and MHA. These organizations have done miracles in the past decades in providing help and support to the mentally ill. However, there is no clear declaration in these groups that in mental illness “Quality Health Care Works,” that people who have recovered can become fully functioning members of society and, in fact, have developed certain insights, strengths and capabilities that can transform society, that can create spaces of wellness that can be accessed by not only the mentally ill, but the entire public.

Why Do We Need a Peer Advocacy Organization in SAAC 3?:

There seems to be an opportunity in SAAC 3 for a pure, independent Peer Advocacy Organization. It appears that Project Return, Painted Brain, Share, Peer Action, and the LA County Client Coalition are beginning to develop in other areas of LA and Orange Counties. I do not know if SAAC 7 has representation at this point. Just as we need strong, independent, individuals who are unafraid to speak out, we need many strong, independent peer advocacy organizations, meeting together to share ideas, offering to the table each our own unique perspectives and challenges.

What Is the Problem?

  1. There are abundant resources in Pasadena to help the mentally ill. These include colleges (with no support groups), Union Station (which is a program anathema to other communities because it attracts homeless people), churches (with no access or knowledge of best practices), community mental health centers (which serve only the people lucky enough to qualify for SSDI), hospitals such as Kaiser (who have great research on how to fix problems, but no programs whatsoever put in place to begin effective therapies), hospitals such as Las Encinas (which have no mandate to help the mentally ill; they are only designed to contain the crises until the insurance runs out, when people are shunted off to jails and bigger, more terrifying spaces), emergency rooms (which are completely ineffective in emotional trauma care), clinics (which are holding cells for a business that has a higher priority to make money and status than to hold the lonely). These resources are closed containers.
  2. This organizing and planning and funding and battling and crying is going to be so easy. All the essential work is set up and running. All we have to do is write our heads off, make connections, keep on storytelling, communicate in foreign languages, heft the sandbags, run like mad and fill in all the little gaps.

  3. Ordinary people in our colleges, businesses and churches cannot access support groups by trained therapists on domestic violence, WRAP, DBT, CBT, relationship management and psychotherapy. Support groups and psychotherapy should be offered, long-term, through single-payor insurance to every person in the county. This therapy should include both popular and in-depth expression and training, and could be administrated and facilitated by educated, experienced adults.
  4. Mental health practices and products should be marketed. Gyms and yoga centers are popular and public and open to most. Where are the advocates, newly minted, on our college campuses? Wellness Centers can provide crisis support, long-term therapy and online mini-fixes. We peer advocates will have to, by maintenance, deal with the inevitable deterioration into publicity of a stellar mental health system that is effective and popular.
  5. Most of our governmental funds are being funneled into repetitious and specious research, and into the Educational Machine. The machine has little to do with people on the street, inside their homes, in their cars and their offices and their families. It continues to crank out conferences and connections. USC has yet to build a single supported board and care for older adults with opportunities for the elders to teach and tell their stories in the schools. UCLA has a residential treatment program which nobody knows about and which is used basically as a research platform, rather than a treatment home for people of hope. The work is going to be effected by people who care about health, our own, the health of our people, and the health of society. Peer Advocates need to be encouraged, educated, funded and employed who have the skills and the passion to get the job done.
  6. Residential Treatment Centers are the preserve of the rich. Interestingly, because they are well-funded and are populated by the most university educated, they are completely out of touch with effective, humane, community-based treatment practices. They tend to read out of a book, rather than look you in the eye. They are not found in prisons. They are restricted to those suffering with substance abuse.
  7. The hard, hard work has already been done. Mental health has moved from stocks, ice baths, ECT, and incarceration to the community mental health center. We can begin to pry jails away from privateers and open the way for the mentally ill to walk the streets without so much terror of the police, the CIA and the FBI that some bury themselves in lonely basements with a cache of guns and ammunition. There need to be boundaries, but these walls need have doors that can be unlocked and windows that can be flung open. Plants grow best when grown in the open with deep, red soil and plenty of water. They grow least in tiny pots, held down by tarps and ropes, and starved of nutrition.
  8. If you truly believe that the process is hopeless then you have never recovered from mental illness. I believe that the wellness lies, not in more education and research, but in the slow build of momentum among peer advocates who have been in the lowest places and have found that wellness for themselves that is the human urgency to celebrate wholeness with every person in our sphere of influence.

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