2015 New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services Conference

Renewal, Recovery, and Learning

Each September, executives, administrators, supervisors, direct care staff and consumers from the psychiatric rehabilitation community convene on a little hamlet in upstate New York for three days of comradery, emotional renewal, and learning at the Annual NYAPRS (New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services) Conference. I have had the honor to be a part of this gathering for well over 20 years, but the amount of information I gain each year is unwavering. I always leave with a renewed spirit and commitment to recovery for those who fight everyday to make recovery a reality.

The conference itself touches on a wide range of topics in the psychiatric rehabilitation realm, including Managed Care, Health Homes, Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) programs, Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) and even the world of electronic documentation. Conversations about these topics were eclectic at best and confusing at worst, as many questions remain unanswered. Every speaker who represented a position of authority made sure to clarify that “things are fluid” and “as of now this is our thinking,” so the definitive answers many came looking for were absent; however, this may not be a bad thing. It gives us hope that the community can still have input in assuring the new world will truly embrace rehabilitation and recovery. What I learned, or reinforced I should say, is the belief that we can use this moment in time to redefine the behavioral healthcare system to embrace the principles of rehabilitation and recovery, to create a truly integrated model of care that looks holistically at the person. One that does not just examine recovery from a diagnosis perspective, but from a person-centered perspective that honors the fact that an individual is a member of the community, a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, or a friend.

As in previous years, I had the opportunity to share my knowledge, opinions and beliefs with attendees by giving a workshop presentation. For this year’s presentation, I was honored to be joined by Steve Duke from Baltic Street, AEH, a peer-run nonprofit agency located in New York City and dedicated to improving the quality of life for people living with mental illness. Steve serves as the Director of Quality Assurance and Employment Services and has been dedicated to the recovery movement for years. He lives it, works it, and helps create opportunities for others. I have been lucky to call Steve my colleague and friend for many years. Our presentation at NYAPRS focused on how to use documentation to both ensure accountability in service delivery and billing practices, and most importantly as an effective tool for recovery. We discussed how creating a person-centered plan based on eight dimensions of a person’s life can not only serve as a blueprint of participation in a program, but also as a mechanism to help an individual feel engaged in a partnership with a program or service. One of the key takeaways from our presentation was a discussion about quality documentation. While it might feel burdensome, maintaining quality documentation as part of person-centered planning, especially if it is used within an electronic system, can be a powerful component to any recovery oriented program.

As I reflect on the NYAPRS conference, I ask myself where I think the recovery movement and the psychiatric rehabilitation movement is going in the future. I have no crystal ball, but I would wager we are going to end up on top and in a very good place. The resourcefulness I have seen over the years from people dedicated to keeping recovery a reality for everyone gives me great hope. It will not be easy. There are just so many changes happening at the same time that you cannot possibly navigate the paradigm shift without partners and without collaboration. To me, the people who attend, present, and organize this incredible annual NYAPRS event, and others like it all around the country, are those who partner together to ensure that the future will be bright for everyone involved.