There is beginning in Tennessee to be a conversation among many people about an organization, independent of any ties to existing providers or to state government, that promotes and advocates for peer specialists, for the need for the recovery model to have a more central and integral role in the day to day operations of the mental health system, to join the voices of many others in speaking loudly about the reality of mental health stigma and the damage it does to way too many lives, and to help develop an alternative vision of what it means to be diagnosed with a mental illness that emphasizes th reality and process of recovery.
I have thought long and hard about what such an organization might concern itself with and try to do.
- Working with others continue to try to professionalize the role of peer specialist. Increase standards and training. Perhaps serve as a clearing house to tie people seeking certification with the training they need. One of the problems now is that some training requires either medical insurance or other financial resources to access it. No one seeking certification should be the victim of their lack of insurance.
- Researching the variety of roles that peer specialists play in other states and bringing these ideas into the conversation in Tennessee.
- Consulting/training with providers about how to implement peer specialist roles in their programs.
- Serving as a strong voice of advocacy for an improved mental health system in Tennessee. Many of the people who have become peer specialists have experienced the problems with the system in Tennessee first hand and can serve a powerful role in advocating change.
- Partnering with organizations in other states to help build a consensus nationally towards the growth of the peer support role and the recovery model.
- Supporting the development of support groups throughout the state, especially in areas that have inadequate mental health services availible.
- Serving as a clearinghouse to help hook people who have been trained as WRAP facilitators, BRIDGES facilitators and teachers of other recovery tools up with people needing such training. Right now many people who have been training have a difficulty finding a place to do the training unless they work for an agency that allows that training.
I know there are manyother ways that such an organization could make an impact in Tennessee. If you live in Tennessee and feel you might be interested in talking more I would love to hear from you. The first peer specialist conference in Tennessee was held recently in Middle Tennessee. My strongest reaction was that if we come together as an active community we have a real chance to make a difference in Tennessee. I look forward to hearing from you.