Can’t We Dream?
Maura Kelley, CPRP, Director of Mental Health PEER Connection
Some debilitating subtle practices are occurring in the mental health system in New York State, and through first-hand knowledge, right here in Western New York. We Peer Advocates thought we were so successful seeing the number of Psychiatric Beds decrease over the years, thinking we were helping our brothers and sisters into the community. The psychiatric bed count is the smallest number ever, since institutionalization into hospital wards increased in the 1960’s. But what we didn’t see is the movement from one institution to several smaller institutions in the community. Many of our brothers and sisters went to group homes of Single Room Occupancy Buildings consisting of 70 to 100 individuals living together, having their own room, bathroom and TV, while sharing their dining and recreational space. Many take medications on their own, through the very well-known pill boxes, that most of us use. Or by standing in line receiving the pills dispersed to them. This is where our brothers and sisters live. I have seen several housing situations in our community. They are diverse, and I truly believe the least restrictive services are provided for most. This housing issue is a concern, but not my main concern in writing this article.
Many of our brothers and sisters who left hospitals where enrolled, admitted, or assigned to what is called PROS programs. “Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS).” PROS
is a comprehensive recovery-oriented program for individuals with severe and persistent mental illness. The goal of the program is to integrate treatment, support, and rehabilitation in a manner that facilitates the individual’s recovery.” Cited from the NYS Office of Mental Health. So, this sounds great. Recently I have been made aware that many people attending PROS “Graduate.” That’s great, too. I would assume that the graduates are on their way to recovery. To my utter disappointment and great dissatisfaction these “Graduates” are our brothers and sisters sitting on benches smoking cigarettes, calling anyone they can think of during the day because they have nothing to do. However, I have discovered many of them have dreams. I have also discovered some people discourage their dreams stating they are “unrealistic,” “preposterous” or “totally unattainable.”
MHPC, as a catalyst for change, must challenge the status quo. First off, I remember a time I was in the hospital forced to go to a group that was for people who had no “goal” or dreams. I applaud all those brothers and sisters in our community who have “Graduated” that have a dream. Having a dream should be an American Right.
I assure you, if you find your way to Mental Health Peer Connection at 3108 Main St. Buffalo, NY, off the LaSalle train, we will honor, respect, and empower you to strive to reach your dream. We will encourage you to try. We will support you, educate you, and be a Peer with you. WE will do this, because we are dreamers, too. We know what despair and isolation and being out of sorts feels like. We too, have “Graduated” into the abyss. Once, a hospital even gave me a plastic chip because I graduated. Three hospital discharges later, they did not give me a chip when I left they gave me a desire to advocate. At MHPC, Peers can be a catalyst for change with you. Call 716-836-0822 ext. 126.