Drop-In Peer Centers Part Two: History and Funding
Last month, I wrote about my drop in center, Rebel’s Drop In, which offers peer mentoring, art classes, outings, and other activities. What would it take to start one?
What is peer mentoring?
A peer is someone who has personal experience living with mental illness. Seventy eight comparative research studies that I read prove that peer mentoring is astoundingly effective in a number of ways. I got this information from two articles. The first is an April 2014 article from the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery. It’s titled, “Peer Support: Why It Works.” The second group of studies cited come from Mark S. Salzer’s 2010 paper: “Certified Peer Specialists in the United States Behavioral Health System: An Emerging Workforce.” I’m sure there are even more. One of studies in particular is about the cost effectiveness of this approach, reducing the amount of crises requiring inpatient confinement. So if you were going to approach a local public hospital that treats the uninsured and the indigent, this study would be of interest to them. Bluntly put, this and other evidence-based comparative studies proves that by supporting a center, maybe by providing space or funds, that over time, they will save lots of money and be able to count it. Drop-ins have been proven to improve quality of life and even save lives, something of interest to a possible private donor.
How is it funded?
Here’s how the movement legitimized itself, opening the door for funding. In 2001, Georgia became the first state to specifically identify peer mentoring and support as a Medicaid reimbursable service. Other states, but not all, have followed suit.
In 2007, Dennis B Smith, the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid explained it as an “evidence-based” mental health model of care that consists of a qualified peer support provider who assists individuals with their recovery from mental illness and substance abuse disorders. In my opinion, it’s a win-win endeavor.
Federal funds are available through Samsa. If you Google Samsa, the prompt for ‘grants and funding’ is on the first page. When you click that, the easy instructions on ‘how to’ fill out an application for grants displays with the bright, easy-to-understand application itself. There is grant-based funding at the city, county, or state level depending on where you live.
How did my center get started?
I sat down with Kay, my center’s project director. She is a peer mentor and manages the other peer mentors. She oversees the volunteer program and other curriculum. A little known but important fact about Kay: She started and nurtured the area’s only Schizophrenics Anonymous self-help group. This has taken conviction and time. Kay’s very interesting, and was kind enough to sit down with me and give me background on our center. She has a stout skill set and many personal achievements. For her, it’s been a journey.
“I was on disability for six years, but always wanted to go back to work.” She worked part-time in the kitchen at the Buddhist Conference center, finding the beliefs enriching and helpful.
“The Buddhist practice definitely had a transformational effect on my life,” she said. “It was very positive.” The next stop was two years of part-time work at MHA, while volunteering at another local drop in center. In 2003, she was hired full-time to work at Rebel’s Drop-In, in Hollywood, Florida. While working full-time at Rebel’s she went back to school, earning a Master’s degree in counseling and is now a licensed LMHC. She mentioned that the hospital helped her to do that.
“The beauty of a hospital affiliation is that we can offer a continuum of care to someone who might need a higher level of care,” she said. “Our psychiatrists and therapists are here on site to evaluate and facilitate that.” The volunteer program offers many opportunities for consumers to do something positive with their lives, in addition to socialization. Isolation, which can be a symptom of some mental health problems, can perpetuate the problem itself.
Rebel’s opened in 2001 with the help of a consumer advocate and a contribution from a private donor. The space was provided by a local hospital. Grants helped provide the additional funding needed to operate the center in its early years.
“Our Grants have only gone up over time. I’ve hired more mentors and offer more programs,” Kay said. “Doesn’t this seem unique in these eras of budget cuts?”
“It’s exceptional, in any political environment. Part of it is that I am a meticulous record keeper. That’s the key in any grant-funded environment.” At that moment the doorbell rang. She relaxed and leaned back, shooting a glance all the way through the door to the group room, around the reception desk to the front door. Her smile reached up to her eyes.
“This is the best chair in the room to sit. At any time I can always see who is trying to get in and go open the door for them.” She got up from her seat and did just that.
Below Are the State-By-State Directories…they may be slightly out of date but try them to see if there is a drop in offering free WRAP services near or in your town.
- (if link doesn’t open try copy/pasting into your browser)
Drop-In Peer Centers for Behavioral Health: An Exploding Trend
One of the reasons I am glad that I moved to Florida is that it led me to a peer run drop in center near my house called Rebel’s Drop In. In my small county, Broward, between Palm Beach and Miami-Dade, we have 5 of these centers. Peer run drop in centers average 5 per state, see the links below to find one near you.
Mindfulness, OA, NAMI Connection Peer-to-Peer, and a 14-year running Schizophrenics Anonymous meeting are there. I learned to make jewelry and took new and improved pieces to Etsy, Holiday Gifts and my own wardrobe. They have Peer Mentoring there, free of charge, to help you reach goals you may have forgotten about in crisis or not. I have a Peer Mentor, who is someone who has been in my shoes, psychiatrically, and we get together to go over my goals on a variety of fronts. One of the most challenging for me is to ‘widen my social circle.” I’m making progress.
Does it sound too good to be true? No, it’s not and it’s an exploding, well-researched trend. So who picks up the tab? The programs are subsidized by grants from the state, who always want a list of printed names and signatures, times and dates, so when you go there, make sure you sign the list. Every signature helps them get grants so they can expand and maintain their offerings.
These places are usually in a building owned by a local hospital for outpatient or continuing behavioral care in different tracks called IOP (Intense Outpatient Treatment paid for by insurance and Medicare/Medicaid). Then, after the patients leave, the aroma of coffee fills the air, the colored crayons come out, and food from Memorial regional Hospital arrives to feed those who have little or no sustenance in the grand room. I’ve eaten it often and it’s always balanced.
In addition to the grand room, where painting, crafts, socializing, and jewelry is done, there are perhaps six private rooms holding various self-help/support meetings until 7:30PM. (Bipolar Support, Emotions Anonymous, Depression Support, Life Skills are just a few). On the weekends, since there is no IOP in session, the hours of the center are bit different. In the words of Deanne O’Brien, who overcame her own mental health nightmare, (which is one prerequisite for Peer Mentors and Supervisors) “No one is too sick to attend Rebel’s Drop In.” I really believe that.
I’m on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr communicating with people with mental illness. Many have never heard of these drop in centers. My friends and I go once or twice a week, drink coffee, bring donuts and gossip. We never know when we’ll be in-patient next, and it’s good to see all the faces of our illness. We are so grateful that the late Ann Rebel’s family gave a charitable endowment to Memorial Regional Hospital, for the purpose of continuing mental health care, Peer Mentoring, and WRAP planning (Wellness Recovery, Action Plan).
If you are curious to see if any of these sorts of arts-oriented facilities exist in your city, county or in a town near you, try these links:
- www.cdsdirectory.org/database/view_all_listings.php (if link doesn’t open try copy/pasting into your browser)
Jo Menary|Tue, 2015-02-24 21:26
Allison, I am so proud of you. What great information and encouragement you are sharing. Keep is going! Jo
- michael |Sun, 2015-03-29 06:43
Great Job Allison. I am so proud of you not only for your informational writing but also fro you willingness to help others find the support they may need to help them in their lives as they deal with the same illnesses you suffer from! Love Michael, your Husband!
- Maggie|Sun, 2015-03-29 07:05
Looks like you dug around to get all this info. Thanks for making it available for us.
- jennifer blake|Mon, 2015-03-30 08:44
I love rebels! discovered it when I got out of mental hosp….wish they had one in boston where my son lives…this place saved me from myself many thanx Alison for great info!
If you have been following this blog for a while you might think I’m married to a life of battle against the ‘powers that be.’ Back when I was on Tumblr I posted a lot about my lighter side, jewelry making, pilates, and gourmet cooking, one of my passions. We have this store in town called Penn Dutch. They have the best, most highly trafficked (this makes for fresher fish because it’s always being replaced by new hauls) fish counter I’ve ever seen. Yesterday they had 9 Oz LobsterTails from South America, not Australia. They carry a Brazilian fish called Branzino that I’ve never heard of.
Yesterday I bought a fish native to here, South Florida, called Pompano. (pictured) it’s only 6.99 a pound, you purchase the whole fish and get two 6oz filets out of it. They filet it for you. What I do is buy coconut milk, fresh mint, and chili paste. I add more splenda to the mixture and heat it up. Then I put dissolved cornstarch in it and pour it over the fish and put it in the oven. I make steamed vegetables and rice, and the extra coconut milk sauce goes good over both. Mike my husband really likes this.
I had to stand at a fish counter with a number tag in my hand for 1/2 hour as this store is crowded. But that’s what makes the fish counter so fresh. Nothing sits there very long.
This is a Blog for bphope.com, the digital branch of “Bipolar Magazine.” I am new there and could use your support. We all are on a bandwagon of some sort, no?
This is a letter to another person who has tardive dyskinesia and is quiet about it. She’s smarter than me. She realizes it scares people. I’m writing her about being stigmatized and discriminated against by my local drop in center and local Nami. This is not the first time I’ve looked at this issue. For all of you people who are trying to advocate, help others, sometimes they don’t want our particular voice to be heard. I took her name out of the letter and am reprinting it and asking you…should I let NAMI national know about this situation or let it lie? I’ve already cried ‘foul’ locally in a very measured, calm manner. The problem is trouble begets trouble. What would it help? Would it result in more doors being shut in my face? My local Nami is Broward County Florida, by the way. This is my way of asking you: What should I do about this?
Buzzfeed published a list of thirty books on mental illness. My book is beginning to just come pouring out of me. I added bipolar hope blog and a one-off on Mindful Management of Mood Disorders-DBT to my list of publishers. When I saw this list, because I had gotten my first list of books from you, naturally I thought of you.
I have a thorny situation I thought I would ask your advice. I want to volunteer in mental health in more than just writing. I am doing a type of telephone outreach developing a database for IBPF and since I’m decent on the phone from years of being a disc jockey and know how to talk naturally, (you just talk and mumble and they get it..they don’t feel ‘slicked’ out..you know?) I am enjoying that.
Here is the situation. I wanted to write a second article about a drop in center that I’d written a first article about. In past, I volunteered for three years with high hospital clearance. I lead a good peer support meeting. I developed an eating disorder meeting, got us in newspaper, showed up until others began tooo..in short the meeting is still running today. I fell off their volunteer rolls. When I asked to be put back on and take the class, I was told I was too unstable. While it’s true I’m verbal, impulsive and sometimes dominant, especialy with people who have thought disorders and are going at a slower speed, I’ve worked on it and have gotten better.
AT that drop in center, there are peer volunteers who have offered me drugs in the parking lot. Others make professional appointments to fix the computer for example and don’t show or call to cancel. I even get calls from paranoid volunteers who think the CIA is after them. I don’t do things like this and I don’t report either. But I’ve run into the same problem with NAMI. I attended a few of their ‘connections’ meetings and was scolded for nodding my head and saying ‘uh huh,’ when someone was talking. They solicited volunteers to lead more support groups. I am really good at this. My calls go unanswered. I tried a third time and filled out a telephone application with the head office volunteer and told him about the problem at “Rebel’s Drop In.” He reassured me I’d done the right thing by confiding in him, as the information would have been relayed to him anyway. They vet us thoroughly. I have been told twice they have no one to do the newsletter. This would be so easy for me and I volunteered. My application has been ignored for two weeks. I followed up with a phone call a week ago and left a message about ‘starting slow and small to work towards a common goal.” it was also ignored. I got an email from them yesterday and cooly responded that I’m aware I’m being discriminated against because “she’s got that.” she’s ‘trouble,’ ‘she’s angry.’
So my email just said, “I’m not angry, this happens to me a lot since I got Tardive and that I understand I’m the face of a fearsome statistic even though I’m asymptomatic. I think it’s the tardive. If I had never mentioned it in a “Connections” meeting I would have been warmly welcomed. I have a strong skill set.
Sometimes doctors won’t take me as a patient, and the ones willing to explain said it was because they viewed me as ‘trouble,’ ‘a walking lawsuit’ a ‘basketcase on too many drugs.’ My own psychiatrist of 17 years says I’m an ‘exotic’ and that people just don’t understand.
I feel good. I had bipolar depression last year from April to Mid july and it was tough. My new antidepressant is hard to keep down, side effect of nausea. But I’m a trouper. I realize certain things aren’t meant to be. I was hoping to volunteer for the drop in center or Nami by facilitating ‘connections’ or a ‘mat pilates’ class. The nearest DBT class is held there. I don’t feel comfortable or supported there.
I wanted involvement with Nami to learn more about things like mental health parity, ballot initiatives, etc. I had wanted to do a series of articles called “Activism Made Easy” giving examples of petitions signable by the click of a mouse. I was hoping to soak up their expertise. I’d be a great grant writer. Maybe I’m meant to write my book and isolate. I crave human interaction, especially with my peers.
I’m at a fork in the road. I’m considering contacting Nami’s national branch and explaining the situation. I am continuing to work on my character defects and off putting personality traits. But I hurt deep inside at an organization dedicated to eliminating inequality and stigma stigmatizing me. It really hurts, M.
So be clear: I’m being discriminated against and not allowed to contribute there in any way even though I could help fundraise, do the newsletter, start and nurture new “Connections” meetings and more. I’m also considered ‘not stable enough’ to volunteer again at the local drop in center. That is also a deteriorating situation. Question is…how far should I take this?
I’m trying, goddamit!
I started blogging with Tumblr. I got hundreds of follows right off the bat. Many in the eating disorder community. Then I switched to WordPress without knowing anything. Somehow this led to me researching and writing a story on something I used to be cynical about (who, me, cynical? No, tell me it’s not true! hahah) The DBT class is held at the outpatient facility of the public hospital in this area. It’s called “Rebel’s Drop In” and is part of the reason why my blog has that theme.
Anyway, there is a long running personality problem with the gal that runs it. I wrote a flattering article about her place and she said stuff that I wrote down. My deadline loomed and when she was on vacation I emailed her two versions. She used her Mindfulness as a weapon and attacked me for bombarding her with emails. Hurt, I stopped asking her for information or offering her final editoral approval. (Sean Penn had given Chapo final editorial approval and apparently it’s a no no) Anyway after she attacked me for sending multiple versions to her for her approval I just backed off. I took her name out of the story as well as the center, the donor’s name and the hospital system if’s affiliated with. When I saw her later she said she was really unhappy with the whole experience and it was the most bizarre that she’d ever had. She still won’t speak to me and she’s the project director as well as one of the DBT therapists.
The only thing between me and DBT is money and this woman.
I want to take it. Does anyone know what the copay?
I did a research story on it for NewLifeOutlook Bipolar read the original book CBT by Linehan and think it could help me with certain faulty thoughts and fear/guilt driven behavior that results in misplaced priorities, loads of stress, Etc.