Thursday, April 3, 2008

Reflection on GAINS

At the biennial GAINS Conference in Washington DC, members of the Behavioral Health Court team had the opportunity to connect with providers and justice system personnel. The GAINS Center is a division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. As stated on the GAINS Center's website,

"The 2008 CMHS National GAINS Center Conference represents a unique opportunity for practitioners and researchers working at the interfaces of the criminal justice and mental health systems to network, learn, and share knowledge on creating effective services for justice-involved individuals with mental illness."

The importance of Forensic Peer Specialists was an enlightening experience for me at the GAINS conference. Forensic Peer Specialists are mental health consumers who can play a key role in helping other consumers recover from their psychiatric disabilities. In the beginning of their integration back to the community, some panelists shared the following: “I needed a reason why I should stop using drugs.” “Being mandated to a program is not the worst thing.” “You need to show up to do your part. Medication doesn’t make you totally better.” Over time, as a person becomes even more integrated into the community, the option of taking a Forensic Peer Specialist Training course can ultimately lead to work in human services organizations that provide services or supports to other mental health consumers.

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