Recovery at the Crossroads

Guest blogger, Harvey Rosenthal
Executive Director, New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS)

Our mental health system and community are currently engaged in a period of unprecedented change of such scope and speed that it has raised critical questions about the future of our recovery, rehabilitation and rights movement. Will the enhanced focus on wellness, prevention, and holistic health advance our values and enhance our choices or will those be swallowed up and lost within our integration within the greater healthcare system and industry?

New York’s Medicaid Redesign initiatives are focused on realizing the goals of improving the outcomes and experience of healthcare, while making savings from the reduced use of emergency and inpatient settings. And while this involves a long-needed focus on improving the quality of care, are we sufficiently focused on helping hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to improve the quality of their lives within their communities?

The answer depends in large part on how successful we are in bringing the power of our community’s voice and values and the superior effectiveness of our recovery sector innovators to the center of the policy and service conversations.

As we have for the past 34 years, over 600 recovery champions gathered recently amidst the fall beauty of the Catskill Mountains to reconnect with their community and to recharge their resolve to transform their lives and the systems around us. Over 3 days, attendees were inspired by the personal stories and lessons that were shared by a number of the nation’s most inspiring and innovative figures.

They learned how emerging peer support, and wellness and recovery focused exemplary practices are finding their way to the top of healthcare reform’s menu. They experienced firsthand how health and healing are advanced by shiatsu, acupuncture, reiki, yoga, massage, medication, Tai Chi, and community drumming and dancing.

They heard a lot about the critical impact that social factors play in either promoting illness or improved health, including housing, employment, cultural connection and competence, stigma and discrimination, racism and poverty, and alternatives to criminal justice system involvement and/or homelessness. Attendees heard from internationally recognized speakers on the ‘Hearing Voices’ network and were moved by a groundbreaking film on ‘Healing Voices.’

Several key themes emerged.

  1. As recovery providers we have to up our game to demonstrate our effectiveness and expand our reach. We have to develop the capability to construct ‘value-based propositions’ and market them to new payers and partners, and integrate them within new systems of care. We need to incorporate new data collection and healthcare record technologies like those pioneered by Foothold Technology.
  2. Recovery advocates and recovery service innovators have to join forces to ensure that the experience and expertise of community based providers is enhanced and not replaced by those who would ‘build rather than buy’ these unique models of care and support.
  3. And, in an environment where truly person-centered and self-directed services are possible, consumers need to get very clear about what their healthcare and life goals are, and assume full responsibility to voice those choices and take all steps to advance their own health and wellness.

Hundreds of committed change agents left the Catskills with a renewed determination to ensure our values are afforded full value in their own lives and in the policy and healthcare systems around us. You can get a flavor of the information, inspiration and celebration offered at the NYAPRS Conference by visiting our website here:

NYAPRS is a peer-led statewide coalition of people who use and/or provide community mental health recovery services and supports that is dedicated to improving services, social conditions and policies for people with psychiatric disabilities by promoting their recovery, rehabilitation, rights and full community integration and inclusion.