It’s Okay to Not be Okay

Everyone should have a plan for when crisis enters our lives. We never know when it will happen, yet it is important to always be prepared. I try to be transparent when I am not ok, so others who care know that I am dealing with something that, at the time, may be bigger than me. Have people in your life that you can talk to. Write in a journal, pray, talk with your peer or mental health professional. Know that you are not alone, and it is ok not to be ok. We are not robots. We are mere humans trying to get it right in what we call “Life”. I am personally grateful for my MHPC team, because when I am not alright my colleagues are supportive and understanding. In this I felt I was never truly alone, and they let me know it would be ok. When you’re not ok, just know it will eventually be “OK”.

It’s ok to not to be ok

person in prayerI believe there is a lot to say about the subject at hand simply because I was the person who thought it was not ok. I was the person who thought I had to wear a smile and a mask that suggested I am good, and not show how difficult life had become. I put up a front, not recognizing the importance of “it is ok to not be ok”. It is a lesson worth learning, grasping, and embracing. The moment you reach out for help can become much easier when you accept that it is ok. I would not want to get into how many times it was not ok, but I think some areas are worth traveling down the road just a little bit. It was the season I recognized that the mask I wore was not even believable to me anymore. I started to recognize that my own front was not feeling or looking like the best way to go about things. I was in bible class one Sunday when I realized this was the day, I would leave class like I was in the best shape. Before I could even stop myself, I raised my hand in class. Just to raise my hand knowing what my intentions were was a brave move. That day, it was me speaking up that changed my life and it was the move that opened a door to the power of love, support, encouragement, and prayers. As I stood up, tears were already filling my eyes. I said, “I hope that this does not disturb class, but I would really appreciate it if everyone in the class today would please pray for me, because if you don’t, I will not make it another day pretending I was ok when I was clearly not ok”.

The realization of what “not being ok” did for me when I realized that it was ok. As a young child, I saw the heartbreak and pain that my mother had endured in a difficult marriage with my father. Watching her pain helped me develop the mask that would try to get in the way of my steps to get help and be my best self. I am truly grateful for the strides I took to make it known how help can only be given when you ask for it. Help can only be helpful when someone knows you need help. My next steps in my decision for embracing the concept of “it’s okay to not be ok” would simply be to be aware of the moment when things become difficult. I had to learn to see how others do not recognize when things are too much for you until you say something. I also recognize that some may not understand but it is not your responsibility to make them understand. Your responsibility is to voice when it is not ok to overwhelm yourself or let others overwhelm you with endless tasks to do. You see, just because I understood the concept did not mean everyone else did. So, I realize I have a duty in life and that is to voice to everyone what is simply not ok. I know today that grasping this concept has truly saved my life and has been beneficial to others. I know that embracing my faith in God has tremendously shown me the best way to heal, grow and connect with others -- especially when things are not ok.

One of the world’s greatest warriors for disability rights has finished her race


Judith “Judy” HeumannJudith “Judy” Heumann, often called “the mother of the disability rights movement”, passed away in Washington, D.C. on the afternoon of March 4, 2023 at the age of 75. She was instrumental in bringing Independent Living to Western New York, as she helped craft the first grant proposal that funded the then-“Western New York Independent Living Project”, later WNYIL, (which was to provide the core services of Independent Living to all eight counties of Western New York). It was my privilege to be able to call Judy a friend and work with her repeatedly over the years from international research projects to local disability awareness programs.

Judy and her family had to begin their struggles early, as she had contracted polio that put her into a wheelchair at age 2, and her parents rejected a doctor’s advice to institutionalize her. The principal of the Brooklyn kindergarten blocked her family from entering, deeming her a “fire hazard”, but her family demanded she access a classroom, and she entered a special school, graduated from high school, Long Island University (with a B.A., class of 1969), and the University of California at Berkley, earning a Master’s in Public Health in 1975. In the interim, she was first a camper and later a counselor at Camp Jened, a summer camp for people with disabilities in the Catskills and was featured in the Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution”, which Independent Living of Niagara County displayed for the community in 2020, with a virtual link up for participants to talk to Judy.

Judy took the New York City Board of Education to court in a landmark case in 1970, because she was denied a teaching position due to her mobility impairments, becoming the first wheelchair user to teach in the City’s schools. Also, in that year, she founded Disabled in Action in the Big Apple. In 1974, while a legislative assistant to the chairperson of the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, she helped develop legislation that became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Additionally,Judy Heumann she was: Deputy Director for seven years of the first Center for Independent Living in the nation, in Berkeley, California; a co-founder of the World Institute on Disability; the first Director for the Department on Disability Services of the District of Columbia; and the Clinton Administration’s Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services at the US Department of Education. 

While at U.S. Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Community Living, she insisted that people with disabilities have a voice in research concerning them, resulting in WNYIL’s gaining a research and training program grant from the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research. In 2010, Judy became the Special Advisor on Disability Rights for the U.S. State Department, appointed by President Barack Obama; plus she was the World Bank Group's first Advisor on Disability and Development andSenior Fellow at the Ford Foundation.

Judith “Judy” Heumann"Judy Heumann’s impact cannot be overstated – every hard-won victory for disability rights since the 1960s stems directly from her leadership and advocacy,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Because of her, people with disabilities are guaranteed equal access and opportunities to go to school, build careers, and live the lives they want to live. Judy shaped the world we live in today, and we all are better for it.´ These victories included The Air Carriers Access Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Her organizing a 28-day sit-in of Federal offices in San Francisco led to the government implementing regulations to enforce the anti-disability-discrimination Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, ultimately resulting in Time Magazine naming her the Woman of the Year for 1977.

It was my honor to have Chaired the New York State Independent Living Council when she was inducted into its New York State Disability Rights Hall of Fame in 2022. Even with all she had fought, seen, and done, this recognition brought tears to her eyes. Along with President Biden, our thoughts go to her husband, Jorge. Judy is one ground-breaking disability rights leader who will be sorely missed.

Reentry Process

open doorThis is an update on the work I am doing with the Reentry Process for my BPC/CPL (Buffalo Psychiatric Center/Criminal Procedure Law) groups that I run on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The groups consist of 15 men and one woman, who all have been locked up in the mental health institution for over 10 years, including one individual who has been in the mental hospital for the criminally insane for over 50 years.

However, they are all doing well and are preparing for reentry and C/R (conditional release). I have been working with them for three and half years now and they are doing very well in the process of gaining basic life skills. They are presently going on bus and train rides to learn the routes, so when the reach a higher privilege level, they will be able to travel to places such as WNYIL and places where they will be volunteering on their own. 

I also do a Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous group, as well as a Mental Health Recovery group one Tuesday a month. They come into the Job Club every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. & 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., two different groups from the same BPC/CPL but with individuals who have different levels of privilege.

I deal with each BPC/CPL in person so I can know how they are doing with the fact that they are about to get released soon. For some it is scary after being locked up for such a long time.

I will be a part of their after-care program to make the transition a little easier on them. I look forward to the challenge of supporting them once they are released.

Use Your PTO (paid time off)

Work, work that is all you do. Get to the bag! Has it occurred to you that you are burnt out, tired, and barely see your family? The people at your job see you more than the people in your personal life. Well, I felt and heard all of that. In section 7 of the labor laws, it says you must take a minimum of 24 hours of rest in any calendar work week. What can you do during that time? Catch up on household choirs, go for a walk, go to the movies, a play, or do nothing and sleep. Whatever you do, don’t work on your day off.

Ever wished you would’ve spent more time with that loved one before they died? Now you are grieving and want to take time off but feel like you can’t or don’t have time. Look at the PTO or Sick Leave and take that time off and go. Bereavement is not included when using sick leave. The company will still have to run while you are out so, depending on the company, whether they use Sick Leave, PTO, or Paid Time Off, it will get used. Employers must use sick leave for mental or physical illness, injury, or health conditions.

If the company gives you sick leave, or PTO, when you are first hired, that is awesome. If not, you must work at least 30 hours before sick leave accrues.

The company must follow the Department of Labor laws and regulations. Ever wonder why your time was denied or read the manual, because they must meet the requirements for staff on the clock. If the company has 100+ employees, they must provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year. For 5 to 99 employees, they must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year. 0 to 4 employees are based on the company net income of 1 million or less; they must provide 40 hours of unpaid sick leave; 1 million or greater, 40 hours paid sick leave.

Put yourself first and use your time off. Go out of town, or stay in town, and do a mini vacation. Exercise is a good way to release stress. On your lunch break eat, walk, listen to music. Talk to a loved one. Enjoy your personal time.

Link to resources

One Day Rest in Seven: Section 161 of the Labor Law ( 

New York State Paid Sick Leave - General Information ( 

New York Paid Sick Leave ( 

Allowing Productivity

clockEverything piles on top of one another.

It's tough to determine the time for accomplishments versus sitting still.

I lost sight of reality when the day was packed close. The drive to get things done defeats joy -- but letting go allows my mind to produce novel concepts.

Being assigned to a position that requires constant output is straining. This is especially true when housing, loved ones, and all livelihoods depend on it. Navigating expectations is confusing. Even if the original intent was to do it for myself, things will be done for someone else. Eventually the joy of contribution becomes a chore, so nothing gets done. Then no progress remains.

Though it may be necessary to plan more, I remember in past days when everything was squeezed together. Then no one recognized me. So, it seems easier to appear inactive.

Everyone aims for change. In my case, rapid change seemed forced, even with many accomplishments. I spent numerous nights locked up, wondering if things would improve in my surroundings.

It was hard to think of days when my life seemed more in order, but things are actually better now. I am glad life is different, but to consider the movement of time is puzzling. Back then, I felt poor. Good attitude was difficult, until the right med settled chaos. It's hard to say where I would be without this, but first I felt rich. 

"Overwhelm freeze" comes on without being able to add strategic effort. Then I regret my mistakes, and darkness seems constant. I see a structured home around me but reaching out is necessary.

Now, I am solid, and I think I am well. This repeats, and I recall all important skills. I bring them to the fore, and things fall into place. Despite typical confusion, a path forward arises, and a lantern lights the way.

Success Stories

successOver the past six months, I have seen much success with my consumers finding apartments. I actually tried to pinpoint which one I would spotlight, only to realize I couldn’t limit the achievement recognition to just one person.

A) I started working with a white and elderly married couple who were living in their car on and off for over six months before they started working with our agency. This couple spent time in and out of the emergency room the entire time I worked with them. They only got food stamps for one month and then did not qualify. They called me to let me know and I contacted a few places to get assistance. A church in the area offered them a Tops Market gift card for $125 to buy food. Not long after that, they found an assisted living facility to cater to their needs. They moved in the month of February.

B) I assisted a Black female a few months before she would qualify for programs as a senior citizen. She stayed in Little Portion Friary Homeless Shelter and did not like having to leave building during midday hours every day, but she found an apartment and they made her prove her disability because she was not yet 62. Recently, her doctor’s confirmation came back, and she was approved to get into the place based on her disability.

C) A middle-aged Black male, “John”, was approved for Erie County’s Single Point of Access (SPOA) Critical Time Intervention (CTI) program; and within four weeks, he was approved for an apartment.

D) A Black female consumer, in her 20’s, in Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) for mental illness, was released, and I was able to get her into temporary placement at Cornerstone Manor Women and Children’s Center the same day. Later, she was also approved for Single Point of Access (SPOA) for the Critical Time Intervention (CTI) program.

E) I assisted one lady, a white female, middle-aged, who became discouraged looking for a new place to live, but she was able to find housing before her eviction date.

F) I had a Black male senior citizen fill out one application; the very first application was approved, and he moved January 15, 2023.

G) I also helped a Black male, 57 years-old, who was being evicted and received at least five extensions to give him time to find an apartment. He secured an apartment before the last due date.

H) Recently, I started working with a middle-aged Black female, who decided that she would go into sobriety because looking for a place to live was more important than her habit. After working with her only three weeks, she also found an apartment.

J) Another lady, Black and in her 20’s, needed to find placement before her Housing Choice Program Section 8 Voucher was up, and she found an apartment in four weeks. She used all the links I gave her and filled out all the applications I supplied, and she located a nice apartment in a charming area.

K) One lady needed to move because her home had so many problems and Section 8 would not approve underwriting it. She is a middle-aged Back female, and I have been working with her for several months. In that time frame, her landlord was persuaded to do all the repairs, plus bring in rugs to put down on her floors and she no longer needs to move. She called me to say her house does not even look like the same apartment.

L) I had another middle-aged white male who needed to find an apartment before his Section 8 Voucher was up. He was able to find an apartment before the due date.

Un poco de español para principiantes A little Spanish for beginners

A little Spanish for beginners

Lisa Maria Cruz, MHPC Outreach Peer Support Specialist

Spain's flagVamos a tener una lección pequeña en cada boletin informativo. Porque todo el mundo puede hablar el español!

We are going to have a small lesson in each Newsletter. Because everyone can speak Spanish.

Con mucho gusto. Pleased to meet you.

Gracias. Thank you.

Buena suerte. Good luck.

¡Hasta luego! See you later!

¿Dónde vive usted? Where do you live?

¿Dónde trabaja? Where do you work?

¿Qué le gusta hacer? What do you like to do?

¿Tiene pasatiempos? Do you have hobbies?

¿De dónde es? Where are you from?

*Note: when meeting someone for the first time, it is probably safest to use usted, the formal pronoun for “you”, rather than the tú used with friends. But there is some variability with each individual. If you don’t know, just ask, ¿Puedo tutearle? May I use tú with you? If they say no, don’t be offended. It’s best to respect people’s boundaries.

Virtual Support Groups

People in support groupA Journey to Healing, Wednesdays, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Eddylees Guzman, 716-836-0822, ext. 164 or email at contact to register. We will bring awareness, education, and support surrounding addiction to families who are struggling with a loved one’s addiction. Participants will learn how to set healthy boundaries, learn the stages of grief & loss, model coping skills, and the importance of self-care.

Positive Perspective, Wednesdays, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Terrence Lockett, 716-836-0822 ext. 132 or email at contact to register. How do we change our thinking? Let’s find the positive in this very negative world!

Hand & Hand, Thursdays, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Ashanti Brown, 716-836-0822 ext. 160 or email at contact to register. Reaching out to the community with a trauma and support group.

I Believe in You Support Group, Thursdays, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Denise Munir, 716-836-0822 ext. 169 or email at contact to register. Come get the support that you need because you matter.

Virtual Open Mic: Freedom of Expression, 1st and 3rd Thursdays, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Lisa Maria Cruz, 716-836-0822 ext. 520 or email at contact to register. People can freely express themselves through spoken word, singing, playing musical instruments, theater, dance and comedy.

Hope Heals Family Support Group, Tuesdays, 12:00 – 1:30 p.m.
Sparks of Hope, 107 Main St., Hamburg, N.Y. 14075

Alan Tomaski, or 716-931-0380 to register. Please wear a face covering for the duration of the group. As family members, our pain grows as we watch our loved ones suffering from substance abuse. The confusion on how to help can be overwhelming. Anger and fear become a part of our everyday lives.

Healing Families, every 1st and 3rd Tuesday, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m., Rural Outreach Center, 730 Olean Rd., East Aurora, N.Y. 14052
Alan Tomaski, or 716-931-0380 to register. Please wear a face covering for the duration of the group. Come join us for our peer family support group. We can help rebuild our lives after the devastation of substance use in our homes.

In-Person SMART Recovery, Thursdays, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m., Revive Wesleyan of Hamburg, 4999 McKinley Pkwy., Hamburg, N.Y. 14075
Alan Tomaski, or 716-931-0380 to register. Please wear a face covering for the duration of the group. (Room is open 30 minutes before and after group.) Our goal is to help individuals gain independence from addictive behavior and lead meaningful and satisfying lives.

Wellness for All Group, every other Friday, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Amity Club, 340 Military Rd., Buffalo, N.Y. 14207

Randy Oaks, 716-836-0822 ext. 182 or to register. Peer support group for socializing. A pool table, dart board and television are available. Drinks and snacks can be purchased on site.

Mental Health Support Group, Mondays, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., Western New York Independent Living, 3108 Main St., Buffalo, N.Y. 14214
Marie Therese, 716-435-0238 or Open to anyone with any mental health challenge. Please call before attending for the first time.

An important note about the RSVP process and privacy: To maintain your privacy, we do not publicly share the phone numbers and links to our virtual meetings. We will respect people’s wishes to remain anonymous.

people holding hands

Healthy Snacks: No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies

baking ingredientsLove & Lemons, a food blog with fresh, zesty recipes

Prep time: 15 minutes • Chilling time: 12 hrs. • Serves: 24

These no-bake cookies are one of my favorite healthy snacks!


⅔ cup unsalted natural creamy peanut butter*

½ cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heaping ½ teaspoon sea salt*

2½ cups whole rolled oats

¼ cup mini chocolate chips


  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Add the oats and chocolate chips and stir until combined. Use a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop to portion the dough. Use your hands to form into balls and place on the baking sheet, then flatten into disks with your fingers (the disks will become more cohesive as they chill). Chill overnight to allow the cookies to firm up.


*If your peanut butter is salted, start with half the amount of salt and add more to taste. Be sure to use natural peanut butter that is smooth, not the chunky stuff that you sometimes find at the bottom of the jar.