Linking consumers is the goal

Milwaukee County is in the process of implementing a new program called Community Linkages and Support Program intended to improve outcomes for persons who received assistance at an acute care mental health facility. In addition peer support is going to be integrated into targeted case management and community support programs. This will dramatically increase the amount of peer support available to the mental health consumers in this county.

It is part of the effort to re-design mental health care away from focusing on more expensive hospital based assistance and more toward helping improve people’s quality of life in the neighborhoods where they live and work. The times I have felt most gratified by the work that I do involve integrating consumers into society. For example, I referred a woman to an organization called IndependenceFirst which helps create opportunities for people with disabilities. She blossomed and was able to claim her independence, move out of supportive housing and get a job.

I saw her recently at IndependenceFirst where I had gone for a meeting. I was truly impressed at the capable woman she had become. She embodied what I tell people about the life that is out there for them beyond the mundane details of taking their medications, getting a good night’s rest and being so-called “compliant.”

At the other end of spectrum I am all to aware that the people I attempt to reach may not be receptive the first 60 times I talk with them. They may have issues that can’t adequately be addressed by the community program they are accessing. that’s okay, too, because leaving the program offers them an opportunity to learn and grow from the experience.

We all can change from understanding new things. I am not the person I once was when I became a peer specialist. And I will be very different if I obtain a position through one of these new programs. But my attitude will remain the same: that is, the need for ongoing community integration as the key to helping people live healthier more productive lives.


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