(January 13, 2022) Repost from NYAPRS ENews
NYAPRS Note: The Mental Health Weekly asked several advocates to write about how COVID has changed the way their agency or organization operates and about the challenges and opportunities that await them in the new year.
Harvey Rosenthal, CEO of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services:
2022 should see an ever-increasing focus on 4 Cs — COVID, crisis innovations, criminal justice reform and cultural equity.
We’ll need to make access to cell and Zoom technology much more available and affordable to low-income individuals, including paying for phones and minutes to promote their use. (In that spirit, NYAPRS answered the COVID challenge by making all of our conferences virtual (see https://www.nyaprs.org/annual-conference-2021, offering a steady stream of inspiring and instructive webinars (https://www.nyaprs.org/nyaprs-presentations)-and daily online meditation and yoga sessions and www.nyaprs.org).
Spurred by federal COVID dollars to the states, states and localities should work closely together to create a seamless continuum of crisis services, including major roles for peer 988 counselors and peer-run crisis stabilization and respite programs.
Police training has not been enough, and too many of our mental health systems’ failures are foisted on the criminal justice and corrections sectors. We need to see the wide- spread deployment of police alternatives that favor the use of teams of peer and EMT first responders to avoid unnecessary arrests, admissions and tragedies. States should join New York in banning if not severely limiting the use of barbaric solitary confinement in state prisons and local jails, especially for vulnerable groups like ours, and provide rehabilitation-focused alternative approaches.
All of the above need to be implemented in ways that promote skilled voluntary engagement, support and justice, most notably for people of color, LGBTQI individuals and other marginalized groups who all too often face highly disproportionate rates of crushing discrimination, poverty, criminal justice involvement, hunger insecurity, isolation and major health challenges.
We have been making small, slow but steady progress in all of these areas in pockets around the country. So much more can be done in 2022 if we can further our efforts to bring together the wisdom and will of recovering people; families; peer supporters; community health and behavioral health providers; federal, state and local agencies; and criminal justice reform organizations.