Bonnie Castro – People, Not Treatment Models, Change Lives

Editor’s note: This came from a discussion in an email group for all the peer support centers in Missouri. Bonnie Castro is a peer support specialist. 

Some Peers Change Lives

So many folks in the system right now still remain in the “life is limited” stage despite consumer-run programs or clinical services that are offered to them. It’s not the services destroying the system so much. It’s the people delivering those services that change lives.

Recovery Rocks 2011 - Conference with many peer specialists where Bonnie was a speaker

Recovery Rocks 2011 – Conference with many peer specialists where Bonnie was a speaker

I have met case managers that are really good at what they do. Their clients LOVE them!  I have met really bad peer support workers. Some are more medicated than their clients, trying to change lives and provide meaningful support, but just they sit there with their client silently drooling and dozing off  (true story).

Shame on whoever hired them without teaching them employable skills.  Later the client told their case manager, I don’t like my peer support worker. You can tell if someone is a good “professional” based on the work they do with their folks, and the stories clients share about them. Maybe this lady got a batch of good professionals in her life. She was one of the lucky ones.

Services are services, whether they are professional or consumer -run. If they change lives, then something in that model and agency culture works.

Consumer-Run  Supports Often Change Lives

AA groups are consumer-run supports that change lives-.   Some people attend for the support of others, and some don’t attend because the war stories are triggers. The trick is the personality of the facilitator, and the relationship they have with the person and the group as a whole.

Rene Strunk, on the right, directs Project Independence in Wichita and has done a lot to change lives.

Rene Strunk, on the right, directs Project Independence in Wichita and has done a lot to change lives.

Healing for some folks only means someone cared about me enough to hang in there with me despite the crap I did. “They believed in me”, “They care about me despite my issues”, “I am loved by someone”. Very simple human emotions due to  reciprocal relationships can make a lotus grow from the mud any day of the week. Despite what we call it, and what model is used, that relationship can change lives

Yes, the government needs to do a lot more with mental health reform, but probably won’t touch it for awhile. No matter what, pr0grams won’t change lives.  Good people and relationships change lives.   We will always need therapists and psychiatrists like we need nurses and doctors. It’s all medicine, whether it’s for the mind or body.

Shery Mead created the  Intentional Peer Support model to change lives.

Shery Mead created the Intentional Peer Support model to change lives.

Probably for the next 20 years, people are going to get help in whatever form works for them until a better system of care is created. At the end of the day, the average American needs help now, and won’t be looking at studies and best practices to figure it out while they are in crisis or depressed.  I don’t rely on treatment now, but I have before, and might again. When that moment happens, I will do whatever works.

It’s all personal motivation, a team of peer support cheerleaders or the best case managers. It still comes down to the person’s level of determination to achieve goals, and the insights they have about themselves. We are in their lives to stoke the fire.

I have discovered most treatment models, whether consumer-based or clinical, have a lot of “ingredients” in common. They all steal from each other and fight for the spot to be the “next big thing” I personally believe that what keeps us going and makes a difference are the people we surround ourselves with and what we’re willing to allow ourselves to experience.

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1 comment to Bonnie Castro – People, Not Treatment Models, Change Lives

  • This evidence lends support to a ‘carve out’ design because while most folks might do just fine receiving their health care through large Medicaid HMO care plans, those plans don’t have any significant experience or success in properly engaging and serving a group that needs more consistent outreach, crisis assistance, rehabilitation and peer support than the typical HMO Medicaid beneficiary. Integration with primary care can be realized by ensuring these practices are built in to a ‘carved out’ contract with the state.