PROS The Movement: Celebrating the Pioneers of Recovery-Based Services

As one might expect, the annual PROS Implementation Academy put together by the New York Association Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) is a very special event for me and many others involved in programs providing Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS). Now in its fifth year, it has become both a learning experience where new information is presented by State officials and experts in various areas, and also a time for rejuvenation and celebration. This year’s Academy was no exception, as information on the HARPS and the HCBS waiver was presented, and best practices and strategies for success were shared. I will discuss these topics in a separate piece; but first I wanted to talk a little about the creation and development of this system-changing program and the genesis of a recovery/rehabilitation workforce.

It’s been ten years since the New York State Department of Health, as the single state agency for Medicaid in New York, received approval from the CMS to establish the first PROS program. That was June 3, 2004. Today, there are more than 80 PROS programs in existence, with more being established. The future of the program, as it structured today in a world of Managed Care, is currently an ongoing topic of discussion. With that in mind, the event provided the opportunity for a real celebration of the hard work and risk on the part of those who stuck it out through the early days and of those who have joined the movement along the way.

For it was very apparent over the course of the two days that this is a movement. A movement that was and continues to be an avenue for the creation of a recovery-based mental health system. A tool for those individuals who want nothing more than an opportunity and support as they journey through their own recovery experience. The movement is an acknowledgment of a system changing its beliefs, with programs no longer striving to be the life for people but rather being the means to a life. Where importance is still placed on keeping individuals out of the hospital or crisis services but the overarching goal is a return to an integrated community life of independent housing, work, family relationships and friends. It is a celebration of a sea change in workforce culture in which direct care workers were able to shift their focus from being caretakers to being facilitators. Where the individual and his or her recovery is the focal point of every interaction and intervention.

To each and every one of you who works so hard every day to improve the lives of those individuals you serve, keep it going.The movement was and is not without its skeptics and obstacles; today’s skeptics hide in the shadows more these days and the obstacles seem overwhelming as they always have, but I am confident that together as a community, as a movement, as a recovery workforce, we will not be denied or derailed. You are the future, the workforce that is needed to make Managed Care work. Together we will come through this next set of challenges as we have in the past to get to where we are today. It will continue to take teamwork, focus and the ability to adapt and adjust–all the traits a rehabilitation workforce possesses–to be successful in a world of Managed Care. It was and continues to be humbling to be in the presence of these pioneers shaping the past, present and future of recovery-based services. I look forward to next year’s Academy to again marvel at your successes in changing those lives you touch.