Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Notes from the Recovery Front

from Gerald Butler:


I recently came upon two consumers (I’ll call them James and Ralph) discussing the pros and cons of recovery. James was telling Ralph that (after 35 years in the system) he felt so much better about himself since getting into recovery. On the other hand, Ralph was saying that unless his doctor sat him down and told him do so, he felt recovery was a bad idea. Although we have made some great strides over the last few years, we still need to do more to assure that every one who needs it, has the opportunity to hear the message of hope and recovery. The system wide change needed for this to occur is happening on an individual, person by person basis. Consumers and administrators alike are beginning to see that when we work together, recovery is possible.

Helping to spread this message of hope is the sole purpose of the ‘Recovery Band’. We recently have had the privilege of playing such events as: The Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Board’s Spring Conference at the Hyatt, The Grosse Pointe War Memorial for Northeast Guidance Center, Synergy’s Award Ceremony at the Gem Theatre, and The International Self Determination Conference at the Marriott/Downtown Detroit. What a special honor it is for a consumer band to be asked to provide entertainment at such prestigious events. System transformation occurs when leaders of the system support us, while we work on making our dreams a reality.

Just when it seemed things could not get any better, on May 29th we played the CFAC Awards Ceremony. This was an event put on for consumers and before we played our first note, we were reminded of what the recovery band is all about, the Consumers. It was like coming home and playing for family. The 30th of May was the 3rd annual Empowerment Day/ Recovery is Possible celebration of recovery and it was by far the best. We must first apologize to those we had to turn away, and promise a bigger place (with room to dance) next year. Empowerment Day is an event put on by consumers for consumers, and short of paying the vendors; consumers did everything from designing the flyers and brochure to registration, contacting consumers and staff, ETC. all done by consumers.

As we move into a transformed system one thing is becoming obvious: consumers can do great things when we are allowed to. True transformation is not in the books as much as it in the minds and hearts of those who have made a personal commitment to recovery. This applies to consumers as well as administrators. We must no longer be seen as statistical numbers meant to make an organization look good on paper, but real human beings. Because we are human beings, roadblocks to recovery such as ‘Policy’ must become more flexible and geared toward the individual. When consumer efforts are no longer discouraged but instead are supported in the same manner as the Recovery Band has been supported, then we can say we have a transformed system. Our goal is to spread the message of recovery to as many people as possible

The Origin of Empowerment Day

A little over 3 years ago Darryl Cornwell (Consultant/Detroit East) asked me what I would do for consumers if I had my wish. I told him I would give consumers one day a year: a day free of worries, a day dedicated solely to them, not meant to make any organization look good. A day designed to celebrate how far they have come in recovery. Two days later I was sitting in front of Marylyn Snowden (Chief Executive Officer/ Detroit East) telling her of my dream, and she was saying she could make it happen. I left the meeting thinking ‘yeah right’. While planning the event, each time an issue arose I just knew deep down that I should not get my hopes up. But Ms Snowden would tell me to stop fretting, then she would make a call and suddenly, the sky was no longer falling. She believed in me more than I believed in myself. As everyone knows, the 1st Empowerment Day was huge success.

Last year we had Detroit Wayne County CMH Customer Service help us with the event. This year we arranged for the Peer Support Specialist Empowerment Committee to plan the event, and even I was surprised at how talented consumers can be when they are supported. The computer graphics in the flyers and the brochure, registration, contacting the consumers and staff, decorating the venue, locating, pricing, and selecting the vendors, the entertainment, the agenda, Keynote speech, even lunch was catered by a consumer. The Peer Support Empowerment Committee of Wayne County is proud to join other consumer directed programs across the Nation in being examples of what occurs when we take control of our destiny, and systems support us.

Gerald Butler

Neighborhood News: Detroit East’s “Summer Blast” is set for the 12th of July. This is an ideal event family event and the Recovery Band promises plenty of dance music. Speaking of dancing, consumers at one of the Clubhouses are working on holding an old fashioned dance like we used to have in high school. This is slated for sometime in the fall.

Norman DeLisle, MDRC
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