Random Act By a Peer Specialist: Part 6

December 21. 2022 (Submitted by Howard Diamond)

This is the sixth part in a multipart series. To read from the beginning, click here.


Mystery Man Appears Again

On a warm 60-degree end of March day in Lake Town, Ruth decided to take a walk into town. She waved at the grocery store manager, Ted while he was painting his window, Sal and Tony, the guys at the pizza place and others. Also, she walked into the diner to ask about the open part time position. At this juncture, Ruth left her resume and filled out an application. In the distance, she thought she saw the mystery man.

At around 8pm, Ruth receives a phone call. Several minutes later, another phone call and no one there and  again a third, a fourth and at about 9:45pm a fifth. Each one was similar, Ruth picked up the receiver, said hello, but no one was at the other end of the line, and eventually replaced the receiver. At around 10:30, Ruth tried to fall asleep. Generally, Ruth turns off or buzzer mode on her cell phone. Overnight, she receives six text messages from an unknown account, which Ruth believes is from the same person.

When Ruth wakes up she calls Holly and lets her know what happened. A suggestion Holly offered to tell Office Grey. Reluctantly Ruth agreed. Ruth proceeded to phone the police and tell Officer Grey what occurred. He said he would write a report, but nothing else can be done because it was only one night. Two nights later, the calls and the texts returned with a message…” YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!”

The next morning Ruth called and made an appointment for the same day. Before that Ruth phoned Officer Grey who said he will meet with Ruth and Holly. Everyone met at Holly’s office at 3pm the same day. At around 2pm, Ruth received another text message stating, “BEWARE THE STREETS”.  A scared Ruth arrived at Holly’s office but had to wait. Secretary Steve greeted Ruth and tried different techniques to get her to calm down. By the time Holly was ready was better and Officer Grey was standing by Ruth’s side and escorted her to Holly’s station.

crop ethnic woman with mobile phone
Photo by Tim Samuel on Pexels.com

Since Taylor was out of the office, the three met inside his room for privacy. There Ruth informed them of the prank call earlier in the afternoon. After she was done, Officer Grey asked for Ruth’s cell phone. While he was inspecting her phone, Holly told Ruth that she made a visit for her with Jane at 5pm, she will drop her off and give her exact money to get her home. Upon finishing with Ruth’s phone, Officer Grey filled out and completed more police work that Ruth signed.

Before ending the meeting, Officer Grey wanted to say that there were more things that he wanted to clarify and give the women information. Although all phone numbers were anonymous, he said that they came from the same person. Officer Grey continued, actually there were more than two texts, probably over twenty, with a couple of common themes. Most glaring was spelling mistakes, phrases and questions that were commonly incorrectly stated. This news startled Ruth, but she did not understand why. It was almost 4:30pm when Officer Grey left with Steve and asked him a few questions. Shortly thereafter, Holly and Ruth proceeded to Jane’s building.

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PIECES TOGETHER, PIECES BROKEN, MORE PIECES

During the next couple of weeks, Ruth walked into town as usual, no sign of the mystery man and no threatening text messages. Everything seemed to take a lull and that suited Ruth well. Weather outside Lake Town was getting warmer, flowers were blooming, and vegetables were growing. One day last week, friends of Ruth had a picnic in the park.

For Holly things were getting better. Stress levels were manageable and her anxiety was under control. Her brother Andrew called and said was coming to visit the last week in April for a few days. At work Holly’s consumers were doing okay and putting the pieces of the lives together. Taylor, her supervisor met with Assistant Director, Karen Collins on a couple of occasions regarding the vacant Assistant Supervisor position.  All Holly knew that there were five candidates remaining. One was Anna Mancini. At the police station, Officer Grey had no news.

April 15, things changed. That day Ruth started her day around 6am and an hour later, she receives another unusual text message. This read, “BEWARE THE STREETS!  I WILL BE THERE!  I KNOW HOW TO FIND YOU. I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE!  BEWARE THE STREETS! Immediately she proceeded to the police station to report to Officer Grey. He will be in at 10:30 about 45 minutes from now. Alright, I will come back then. My name is Ruth Haines, please tell him that I was here and want to speak to him.

Halfway between the police station and the center of town, is a coffee shop so Ruth decided to have breakfast. Ironically, Taylor and Holly chose the same place and walked in around 8:10 and the three ate together. At the table Ruth began to inform the two of what transpired earlier. Both went through her text messages and were upset by what they saw. After the meal, Taylor offered to drive Ruth back to the police station. Taylor said no problem, Holly and I have other cases to go over.

Upon arrival, there was a disturbance outside the station. Someone put a large rock through a window, shattered glass everywhere, nearly hitting Officer Grey in the head. This incident terrified Ruth again and suddenly she received a ding from her phone. Some rocks had attached messages including, BEWARE THE STREETS, “WE KNOW YOU ARE CLOSE” and “WE WILL GET YOU.”



About ninety minutes later. a new text appeared on Ruth’s phone. It read, “BEWARE THE STREETS! I WILL FIND YOU! I KNOW WHAT YOU THINK! LOOK LEFT, LOOK RIGHT! I KNOW HOW TO FIND YOU! BEWARE THE STREETS! BEWARE THE STREETS!”  She saw Officer Grey coming toward them. He took down the latest information and he said he will call Ruth soon. Right now, he had to stay here.


NIGHTMARES,  A NEW ENCOUNTER,  HOLLY LEAVES EARLY

A few days later after the window through the police station, things were getting worse for Ruth again. She was receiving additional texts and phone calls plus these were getting more vulgar. One day when she was leaving therapy, she saw a strange man at the other side of the building. Ruth noticed that he had a cap on backwards and slowly put his hands together. In addition, she heard him whistling, “Take me out to the ballgame”. Although Ruth was not followed home, she arrived safely, but was still shaking.

That evening Ruth had sleep issues. Most of the night she was awoken by the sounds of, “Take me …” and the visuals of that man. Each time she got up, her dreams were getting increasingly clearer. Finally at 9AM, she decided to stay up and start. Tomorrow Ruth has an appointment with Jane, but she will phone her later. Also, she will let Holly know, also.

Upon getting to work, Steve noticed that there was a man making a weird noise at the corner of the building. The man had a hat on and looked disheveled and he appeared to be in need of new clothes. As Steve was opening the office at about 8:30am, he figured out that he might be the mystery man. Like most times, Taylor walked in at exactly 9:00am. Shortly after, Steve wanted to tell Taylor what occurred,
but said he had calls to make. Also, Holly was not in yet, so put on both schedules for 10am.

By the time Holly strolled in at 9:26, the office was bustling with plenty of workers, phone ringing and the clatter of desks being moved. Just a common occurrence in the office between 8:30am to 10am. On Holly’s way, she received a message from Ruth. When she returned the call, Ruth did not pick up. At 10:00am, the chimes outside Taylor’s office and the meeting began. Steve had the floor and told the entire team what had transpired earlier. Various participants expressed and showed concern. After the short fifteen-minute meeting, Taylor said he will phone Officer Grey later this morning.

Except for Steve, no one else knew that Taylor had a meeting with Karen Collins regarding the vacancy of Assistant Supervisor. The two of them discussed three possibilities with other Supervisors. Two were already for the agency and the third was working for an agency twenty miles from here, but in Garland County like us, working as a Case Manager for the Mental Health Court. Ms. Collins ended the discussion by stating she will start meeting with the participants next week and hopes to make a decision soon.  Clear schedules, please.

All morning Holly and Ruth did not connect, and albeit that Holly worked only till 12:30, they will talk tomorrow. She reminded Steve about her day, and he said he knew and already told Taylor again. Her afternoon was to pick up her brother, Andrew, at the train depot and spend the rest of the day with him. At around 11:30, Taylor spoke with Officer Grey and said he would be in the office around 2:30 and he would speak with Steve.  

ANDREW VISITS, A THIRD MEETING, A PLEASANT WEEKEND  

Although Andrew’s train arrived 45 minutes late, Holly didn’t mind much This is because she will spend this Wednesday through Monday with her big brother Andrew. Both were hungry so they went to a local Chinese takeout, had an eggroll, and shared boneless spareribs. one was off to a great start, and both hope that this will continue. Additionally, Holly was scheduled to take off Friday afternoon and Monday to be with Andrew and bring him to the depot on Tuesday morning. Friday morning rolled and Andrew made his younger sister toast and tea, but she ran late and grabbed a half slice of toast before she flew out the door. She had to be in court promptly at 9. Then she needed to be at hospital at 10:30 for a case conference at 11, then go to the office to speak with Steve, sign out and proceeded home. Another half day in the life of a Peer Specialist.

Shortly past five, Steve saw a man lurking around outside the building. It looked like the same man as last time.  He motioned he wanted cigarettes, but he said nothing and everything was covered except his eyes and nose. Since Steve did not smoke, he could not provide any. Under the cape, Steve saw him get upset, growl a couple and walk away…or did he? As usual, Steve took his familiar route to his bus stop. A block down, he heard the man right behind him, growl and then run away. 10am, Ruth replacing Office Grey and Taylor plus assorted other staff to give small messages and Steve a weekly update. Things have been relatively quiet since Tuesday, she said. Also, she went to nearby mall and the local shopping center without incident. When Ruth was asked about her sleep, she said it was better and had only a few nightmares about the mystery man and “Take me out …”Then, Ruth wanted to ask Holly a couple of questions. Steve informed Holly was not here this afternoon. Oh Yes, I now recall she will not be here Monday also. Steve said she was correct.

Holly and Andrew spent a good weekend together. They took walks in the two parks in Lake Town, had pizza one night, Andrew cooked another, and had an expensive five course Italian meal. Sunday morning Andrew made an exquisite brunch platter for two. Around Three pm and the two went to a local area
production of “Les Misérables”. Each day the weather was in the 60s by day and 50s by night, with blue sunny days and clear starry nights. Little or no wind accompanied low humidity made the days and nights spectacular.

Tuesday the 29th, the wind has changed direction and speed. It started well when Holly dropped Andrew at the bus depot and she proceeded to work. As soon she arrived,  there were two messages  from Ruth. At approximately 10:15 am, she spoke to Steve and when Holly was ready, he transferred the call and Ruth explained  that she had little or no sleep, had many prank calls and frequent horrible text messages. Also, she mentioned she scheduled a 4:30 appointment with Jane. Holly had a busy day ahead but thought she can cancel her last appointment and meet Ruth at the clinic. Later, Steve received a call from Holly’s  consumer, who said he cannot make and  the 4:00, so Steve phoned Holly to let her know the details. This meant that Holly was free and she let Steve inform Ruth today to meet her. “Beware the Winds of Change.”  


This is the sixth part in a multipart series. To read from the beginning, click here.



Stay right here for Random Act By a Peer Specialist: Part VII … Coming Soon

See you in the NewsBlogs and Newsletters, Howard Diamond is a Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island/

HO, HO, HO HOLIDAYS, but NOT FOR SOME

December 19, 2022

by Howard Diamond

snow covered house and trees
Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Ho, Ho, Ho for the Holidays. Thanksgiving is over and we want some relaxation time to concentrate, (no, not orange juice), on the upcoming holiday month.  In our society, we’ve gotten used to the sentimental images of holidays being full of travel, food, family while spending quality time. As of this writing, it has been relatively nice, but it does not mean one can’t dream of a White Christmas.

photo of a homeless man sleeping near a cardboard sign
Photo by Timur Weber on Pexels.com

For others, it is a ho, hum time of year. Before, during and after the holidays, there is a segment of the population that needs to be talked about. They are the impoverished, the poor and the destitute. We are expressing HOMELESS here. These individuals oftentimes are underfed and or malnourished with tattered clothes. Walking through the streets of our communities, many are looking for food with a permanent place to live, added with new(er) clothing. Some wind up in a shelter, others are forced into the Mental Health System and or the Criminal Justice System. Unfortunately, a lot of the HOMELESS population do not know it is even the holiday season. Ho, ho, ho, but not for some.

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For most in the Jewish religion, this year there will be no rest for the weary.  Each year Jews from around the world attempt to observe their holiday, Chanukah. This year Chanukah starts by overlapping the other holidays. Its onset is Sunday evening December 18 and runs through the night of December 26th. Commonly, Chanukah is known as “The Festival of Lights”. It commemorates the victory of the Maccabees
over the Syrians and the returning of the Menorah (a candelabra) to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. A subsequent miracle occurred when a vial of oil poured into that menorah, was supposed to last for one night, but it continued to be glowing for a total of eight nights.

Children during this holiday often spin a four-sided top called a dreidel. On each of its four sides, is a Hebrew letter which translates into English as “A Great Miracle Happened There”.

photo of person spinning a dreidel
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Late in the month of December, on the 25th is Christmas. This is an annual festival where many Christians observe the day of Jesus Christ being born. Most believe that he came to this world in the form of man to atone for the sins of humanity. Although there are different opinions of the exact date, December 25 became the day most Christians celebrate his arrival. Now, it became a time for family gatherings, singing carols, eating to excess and exchanging presents.

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An example of family interaction is going around town to purchase an annual tree. Then the family decorates this tree with ornaments and lights. Special foods are made all throughout the holiday season.

photo of woman lighting the candlesticks
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On the following day, December 26th, begins a celebration of Kwanzaa. This is a week-long holiday that honors African heritage in African-American cultures. Each of the seven days honors principles which are thought to have been fundamental in promoting strong communities and families around the world, primarily in Africa.

Their candle holder is called a Kinara and is lit each night to commemorate their ancestors. On the seventh day, the holiday culminates with a large family get-together, a huge dinner and gift-giving.

man in santa claus costume
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Like many countries around our world, Nigeria and its people, celebrate two different holiday seasons, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Almost half the population of Nigeria is Muslim and almost all the others are Christians. Therefore, its people honor life with  Kwanzaa from December 26 to January 1. Coming from the phrase, ‘matunda ya kwanza’ essentially Kwanzaa means fresh fruits in Swahili, which is the native language of Nigeria. Meanwhile Christmas in Nigeria is a family event. The yuletide season culminates on December 25 when families get together for food, fun and many assorted activities. Actually, Nigerian children are brought to see Father Christmas which is what they say is their Santa Claus.

grayscale photo of a woman lying on hospital bed
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Not everyone celebrates this time of year with holiday cheer. People with terminal health concerns or long term mental health issues rarely commemorate any part of the December festivities. Most have little or no family interactions and only have friends that are in a similar predicament like themselves. These individuals are often put in institutions for life with little chance of seeing the light of day ever again. No visitors, no contact with anyone, no hope for recovery to lead a productive existence in society. Therefore, no birthdays, no ho, ho, holidays, no fun what is for some.

Whether one celebrates holidays or for any reason can not, make this December the best one yet. If one does not receive my message, I still wish all a good last month of the year. May everyone out there who are struggling, hope the year ahead will be what we wish for, now and always. By the way, I want the world to be in peace and in harmony. Wherever we are, Happy holidays, but not for some.

See you in the NewsBlogs.

Howard Diamond is a Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island,  New York.

Celia Brown: Psychiatric Survivor, Pioneer, and Global Activist for Change

NYAPRS Note: This week, our most beloved Celia Brown passed away. Celia will always be one of the greatest pioneers and people our movement will ever know and, accordingly, a number of Celia’s closest friends are joining with NYAPRS and the NYAPRS Cultural Competence Thursday December 22nd between 4:00-6:00 pm EST to host a special zoom event to give time for people to share their love, gratitude and loss with each other. Jonathan Edwards and Taina Lang will be facilitating the discussion. Please come to share, either verbally or via chat, your feelings with your community. (See below for the recording of this memorial ceremony.) .

December 22nd Memorial Webinar (2 hours, 29 min.):
NYAPRS honoring and memorial sharing:  https://youtu.be/n13PVEkTTzg

Audio-video tribute to Celia Brown by Jonathan P. Edwards (4:03 min.):
https://animoto.com/play/G7fmJFaHRHzoZ5K9qo0P4A

Celia Brown: Psychiatric Survivor, Pioneer, and Global Activist for Change

By  Amy Biancolli  Mad in America  December 16, 2022

Celia Brown, a psychiatric survivor and activist who was revered — even beloved — for her foundational and ongoing efforts in mental health advocacy and the peer movement, has died after a battle with cancer. Known for her warmth and decency, her activism and resolve, Brown is being mourned across many overlapping communities in mental health, human rights, civil rights, and disabilities activism. Her decades of work included campaigning for human rights, leading MindFreedom International, and working as a pioneering on-staff peer-support specialist for the New York State Office of Mental Health.

(Read More)

Message from OMH Commissioner Sullivan

December 13, 2022

Yesterday was a sad day for the peer community as we have lost one of the founders of the peer movement.  Celia Brown, who passed away in her home Sunday evening, was an amazing advocate both within the Office of Mental Health and through her leadership on the board of Mad Pride.  Celia was not only the first peer specialist in our state civil service system, but also in the country.  She helped to create and define the role of the peer specialist in our state facilities and her work is what made the peer specialist role become part of the standard of care for people receiving services. 

Of her many accomplishments, Celia was most proud of her leadership in the Adult Home project including an emphasis on helping people discover their passion. That focused work was directly influential in the creation of the state’s recovery centers.  She also recognized the importance of mutual support within the peer specialist community and worked diligently to create and then support the annual NYC peer specialist conference.  This was a great challenge and something that she loved doing.

Celia was assertive and firm in her convictions, yet always kind, respectful, and willing to consider different perspectives and beliefs. Celia was a role model for so many people in recovery, always an inspiration and she exemplified what is possible. Celia held onto hope and in doing so gave hope. As a woman of color, she offered leadership and guidance, demonstrating for countless individuals what it looks like to overcome multiple barriers.  One of her many strengths was not allowing the trauma that contributes to – and is a part of the experience of having mental health issues – to impact her relationships or willingness to trust and see the good in people. 

One of the many beautiful examples of how she lived her life can be seen in how she honored her father’s passing.  He was building a house in Ghana when he passed away.  Celia took on the responsibility to finish the job and went to Ghana every year to help fulfil his dream.  This is the person we lost today, someone who understood the importance of tradition and relationships.  Celia was the kind of person who was a natural healer and was always there for anyone who needed someone to talk to. To honor her spirit, let us all make an extra effort to take care of ourselves and each other, create space to be with uncomfortable feelings, and allow this moment to become part of our life experience as we continue her work of making the world a better place by being kind to each other and listening without judgement.

Sincerely,

Ann Sullivan, Amanda Saake & the Office of Advocacy and Peer Support Services (formerly the Office of Consumer Affairs)

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And those of us at the Academy of Peer Services will miss Celia not only for the significant contributions she made to our courses, but also to our community, and the light of lovingkindness she brought to our world. She lives on in each of us. 

In Honor and Remembrance of Celia Brown

December 12, 2022 By Harvey Rosenthal, Jonathan P. Edwards, Gita Enders, Taina Lang, and Laura Prescott

I deeply regret to inform you all that Celia Brown passed away yesterday.

Celia was and will always be one of our movement’s most cherished and most influential leaders, a very kind, devoted, determined and humble leader who led the way in the advancement of rights-based advocacy, peer support, trauma informed approaches, cultural competence and humility, peer specialist roles and numerous efforts to combat racism and discrimination.

She was a long-time leader in the consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement who was introduced to the civil rights movement early in her childhood by her family’s experience and role in the struggle.

She was a founding member of the National People of Color/Consumer Survivor Network and following the deaths of people of color across the nation due to deadly force of police, she helped to create Surviving Race: The intersection of Injustice, Disability and Human Rights in 2014 to explore the intersections between race and disability in the human rights movement. 

Celia’s advocacy on behalf of people with psychiatric and other disabilities spanned the globe. Celia served as President of the Board of MindFreedom International, served as their main representative to the United Nations and collaborated with other disability organizations on the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. She traveled to Finland, New Zealand and Geneva and marched on the roads of Ghana, West Africa to lift the stigma and disenfranchisement of Ghanians with disabilities to change its laws.

For a great many years, Celia served as the Regional Advocacy Specialist at the NYC Field Office, NYS Office of Mental Health, providing technical assistance and support to people with psychiatric disabilities and their families and facilitating trainings on peer support, wellness, and recoveryapproaches incommunity mental health agencies.

Celia was a humble but powerful changemaker and truthteller, whose love, kindness and inspiration touched everyone she met. She was both a Mother of our Movement and she was a very dear friend to me.

Her legacy will live forever. Every time, we stand up for recovery and peer support and march for choice, rights and social justice….Celia will be there.

Harvey Rosenthal, NYAPRS CEO

When I entered the peer support workforce community nearly two decades ago, Celia Brown was one of the first pioneers of the consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement I met; she soon became an ally, a mentor, and a deeply close personal friend. Celia possessed unparalleled wisdom and skill navigating historically oppressive systems while simultaneously “changing the narrative” within these same hierarchies.

She was a tireless advocate, possessed a buoyant spirit, and was intentional about supporting others. Celia inspired her fellow advocates to speak out against inhumane practices, racism, and stigma. She skillfully and inimitably traversed her multiple roles with grace and discretion. Mere words cannot capture the breadth and depth of support Celia exchanged with her peers, friends, and family.

On a more personal note, I always experienced a sense of excitement, hope and rejuvenation talking with Celia. Regardless of what was going on in our lives and throughout the world, we always found something to be grateful for and laugh about. We sought comic relief to buffer the harshness of police violence, political upheaval, and structural racism. Celia and I share a birthday and were born in the same year. I am fortunate to have worked with Celia on planning the New York City Conference for Working Peer Specialists for the past 17 years; convening the Inaugural Surviving Race Dialogues this past summer in Savannah, Georgia; and hosting virtual peer support groups on Saturday afternoons for 14 months during the pandemic.

Celia sought to change systems one person at a time and never deemed any cause insurmountable. I will miss her immensely and will always be enriched by her dedication, friendship and support.

Jonathan P. Edwards, Ph.D., Peer Support Workforce Advocate and Researcher, Colleague and Longtime Friend 

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When I returned to New York after over 10 years working in behavioral health in rural Arizona, one of the first people I met was Celia Brown. Her warm and giving soul made me so comfortable. As I learned more and more about Celia, I was honored and humbled that she took time to call me in on the movement and its history as she and others in the consumer/survivor/ex-patient network shared their knowledge and their time.

Celia made time for everything, I too worked with her for the past nine years on planning and executing the annual New York City Conference for Working Peer Specialists. She was a leader, who did not make one feel “led,” she was a wealth of historical knowledge, compassion, and passion for the work and for the international peer community.

Celia was always there for people; I remember riding home with her on the subway from Greenpoint in Brooklyn, where we had just spent time with visitors from the Netherlands, telling our stories. It was bitterly cold, and she had a long ride to the Bronx ahead, but she came out for these people as she always did for her family, friends, and colleagues.

I had the privilege of being invited by Celia to take part in the 2022 Surviving Race Dialogues and gratefully appreciated the opportunity to be of service at this social justice event. Celia was all about advocacy, equity, and justice, and my life will be forever changed by her resolute presence and kind mentoring.

Gita Enders, Director of the Office of Behavioral Health Medical and Professional Affairs, New York City Health + Hospitals

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I have been battling for almost an hour to put the words together on how to describe the celebration of the life of Ms. Celia Brown and what an inspiration she is to so many.  I felt such a deep heartache once I heard the news of her passing, but as I reflect, I am reminded of my profound gratitude for having the opportunity to get to know who she truly was and what she stood for.  Celia was a pioneer and what we call a Mother of The Movement. 

Celia was not only a driving force in OMH as the first peer advocate, but I often reflect that her work outside the organization was her true heart and soul.  Celia was the voice for the voiceless and offered resiliency and strength for the people; as one of the founding members of Surviving Race: The Intersection of Injustice, Disability, and Human Rights, her work stemmed from addressing the trauma of systematic racism, police brutality, and inequalities within communities of color and the mental health system.

I have such wonderful memories with my dear friend.  Celia and I would share stories of adventures in Ghana, her love for family, and her passion for changing the World.  Celia once told me, “We all have a place here, and our voices can never be silenced!”

She is a true inspiration, and to honor her legacy in advocacy; I will carry the lessons Celia taught me of the past that hold a tremendous amount of value, harness those lessons, and build on that foundation for future advocacy.

She will forever be missed.

Taina Laing, CEO, Baltic Street AEH

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For Celia on Her Way Home Tonight

Celia Brown died tonight. The stillness of my memories are filled with the strength and power of Celia’s enormous heart. So many times she wordlessly anchored a space, making it feel safe because she was there. I admired the way she let us into her world, sharing her joy, anger, sadness, and love with tremendous grace and courage. 

Celia Brown was a pioneer of peer support, an ardent advocate for people re-claiming power and speaking for themselves.  Her global accomplishments could fill many pages but she most often spoke about the importance of relationships in her life; how proud she was of her son, how much she valued family, being a mother, daughter, a sister and friend. And of course, she remarked on being from the Bronx in an unmistakable accent that became thicker with every word. Celia regularly made communities bigger by reaching out to diverse groups of people and welcoming them into discussions and activities. She believed in possibilities, in the goodness of people, in their ability to work out differences and find a common ground. In this way, Celia instilled hope and encouraged others to do the same. Despite the setbacks, she kept moving forward, with grace and a conviction that it would “be ok.”

 I’ve known Celia almost half my life and it doesn’t feel possible that she is gone.  Despite the enormous sadness, I am also grateful for the powerful legacy she leaves behind, of profound generosity, abiding belief in others to build connections rather than increase the divides. To me she will always be an example of what can happen when we dare to live with our hearts full and open. Celia Brown is finally free. I went outside this evening to gaze at the stars, to see if I could find her leaving trails across the sky before escaping into the inky night on her way home.

Laura Prescott, President, Sister Witness International


From Institute for the Development of Human Arts

Dear Friend,

This week, we lost a friend, mentor, teacher, pioneer, and elder in Celia Brown. A Mother of the Movement, and a fierce advocate for the rights of all of us who identify as mad, mentally ill, disabled, neurodivergent, and survivors.

Alongside our heartache, we feel profound gratitude for the opportunity to have known Celia and to have learned from her. As a founding IDHA member, Celia held the history of the consumer/survivor/ex-patient and peer movements, reminding us where we come from, the hard fought battles we have won, and the challenges that lie ahead.

Celia taught us so much about how to transform oppressive systems from the inside, while staying connected to social movements on the outside. As the first peer specialist in not only NY State but the country, she blazed a trail for peer support, bringing its power to the masses. Celia implicitly understood and always amplified the connections between the traumas of systematic racism and police brutality, and inequalities within communities of color and the mental health system.

Celia taught us that in order to navigate the disagreement and conflict that accompany movement organizing, respect and mutuality are critical. In our efforts to dream and build transformative futures, we will not always agree. Celia built bridges with everyone, and saw our differences not as a barrier, but an opportunity for cohesion and power.

Celia’s life and memory are proof that we can transform harmful, oppressive mental health systems. Our individual actions are connected to a wider vision for liberation. We are bigger than ourselves. We are collective action across geographies; we are connected to lineages across generations. We stand on her shoulders as we continue to fight.

Rest in power, Celia. May your memory be a revolution.

On December 4, Celia participated in a movement lineages panel as part of our Healing as Homecoming festival. She was joined by Sascha DuBrul and Stefanie Lyn Kaufman-Mthimkhulu in a conversation moderated by Vesper Moore to pay homage to the activists and survivors that came before us, and take stock of where we are today in movement organizing efforts for mad liberation, disability justice, and transformative mental health.

This conversation was a powerful opportunity to reflect on how radical mental health organizing has shifted and evolved over the past several decades, and share key lessons to inform future work. We are heartbroken and shocked to learn that this was the final time we would hear from and share space with Celia.

We share this recording in Celia’s honor. As we grieve her loss and celebrate her memory, may we also commit to transmit these lineages and histories to those entering the movement today, and those who will join the fight in generations to come.
WATCH THE PANEL

New York Advocates: Long-Term Fixes Needed to Aid People with Mental Illness

December 16, 2022 (Posted on NYAPRS ENews)

Please welcome NYAPRS new Public Policy Director Luke Sikinyi


See video link at https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/ny-state-of-politics/2022/12/14/advocates–long-term-fixes-needed-to-aid-people-with-mental-illness-).

New York Advocates: Long-Term Fixes Needed to Aid People with Mental Illness

By Nick Reisman City Of Albany  Spectrum News  December 14, 2022

It’s a plan from New York City Mayor Eric Adams he says is meant to keep the streets safer and provide help for people who are struggling: Involuntary confinement and treatment of people with a mental illness.

But mental health advocates are pushing back on the involuntary confinement of people with mental illnesses, arguing that alternatives exist.

Adams this month defended the policy in an interview with NY1’s Mornings on 1.

“We are walking past our fellow New Yorkers that we know cannot make the decision of taking care of themselves to the point where they can’t meet their basic needs,” he said.

Longtime mental health advocate Harvey Rosenthal calls it the wrong approach.

“We won’t think it’s the right way to engage people,” Rosenthal said. “We don’t think it lasts. We think it’s traumatizing to people.”

Rosenthal is calling for alternatives to forced confinement that would lead to people voluntarily seeking treatment.

“We know so many ways of how to engage people voluntarily,” Rosenthal said. So to go backwards as the mayor is doing with more police, more forced treatment, is exactly the wrong way to go.”

Luke Sikinyi of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services said programs like ones in place elsewhere in New York state can be models, including so-called inset teams in Westchester County.

“We’re seeing that there are people willing to take help. It’s just how you reach them,” he said. “So instead of forcing people to get help, we think there are ways of reaching them and getting to voluntarily take services.”

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NY Psychiatric Rehabilitation Training Academy

December 16, From The Coalition for Behavioral Health, Inc.

The Coalition for Behavioral Health and ASAP are pleased to serve as partner organizations on the newly launched New York Psychiatric Rehabilitation Training Academy, an initiative led by NYAPRS and Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, along with a number of other leaders in psychiatric rehabilitation and mental health, substance use, and trauma-related services training and consultation. The Training Academy will serve as a resource for professionals to recognize the impact and opportunity that psychiatric rehabilitation skills and practices has in centering each person to determine their path to recovery.

Click here to view the full announcement online.

Through live and recorded webinars, podcasts, on-site training and consultation and self-paced learning, PROS (Personalized Recovery Oriented Services), CORE (Community Oriented Recovery and Empowerment), and BH HCBS (Behavioral Health Home and Community Based Services) providers will learn to promote and apply psychiatric rehabilitation skills and practices in the recovery of people with mental health, substance use and/or trauma-related challenges.

Click the image or button below to learn more about the benefits of the NYPRTA for participants and agencies.

Download Document

To learn more about the PRTA and how to get involved, visit their website HERE

The enrollment application for the Training Academy can be found HERE

The Coalition for Behavioral Health, Inc.
123 William St., Suite 1901
New York, NY 10038
http://www.coalitionny.org

RESIDENTIAL STEP-DOWN HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY 

12/15/22 – Reposted from NYAPRS Enews

GOVERNOR HOCHUL ANNOUNCES AVAILABILITY OF $7.2 MILLION FOR RESIDENTIAL STEP-DOWN HOUSING IN NEW YORK CITY 

Application Sought to Develop 60 Units of Housing Offering Recovery-Oriented ‘Step-Down’ Services After Inpatient Hospitalization 

Units to Support Work of Mobile Services and Transition to Home Units; Serve Individuals Experiencing Homelessness Living on the Streets and Subway System 

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the availability of $7.2 million to develop short-term transitional residences in New York City to help formerly unhoused individuals make the transition from inpatient care into units with services that are designed to foster living in independent settings. Administered by the state Office of Mental Health, the state funding will help establish four Community Residential Step-Down programs and a total of 60 units of housing to serve individuals living with mental illness on the streets or in the subway system. 

“No New Yorker should be left to reside in the subway system or on the streets, especially not vulnerable individuals living with mental illness,” Governor Hochul said. “These new housing facilities will provide unhoused individuals with access to services they can rely on to ensure they have the skills to live successfully and independently.” 

The Community Residential Step-Down programs will be established at four locations in New York City, and each include 15 units of transitional housing with associated mental health services.  Individuals admitted to this program will be connected to wraparound, mobile services designed to address their mental health needs and other supports necessary for them to transition into successful community living and permanent housing. 

Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “This new step-down residential program will help people living with mental illness who had been homeless transition to safe and stable long-term housing. The program is an important transitional step between inpatient care and the independent living provided by supportive housing and other community-based housing options.” 

These programs will be a vital component of the continuum of care for unhoused New York City residents with mental illness and complement the Transition to Home units, the psychiatric center-based inpatient treatment program established earlier this year. The first Transition to Home unit opened at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center last month, with a second expected to come online early next year. 

Staffed by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, and other clinical and non-clinical personnel, the Transition to Home units are aimed at providing an intensive focus on life management skills for individuals experiencing homelessness and mental health issues. These facilities will help patients to gain functional skills, and work with other agencies to enhance engagement in their mental health care. 

Patients being discharged from the intensive inpatient facility will be able to utilize the Community Residential Step-Down programs for transitional, short-term residence and to further develop the support and skills needed to move to more independent housing. Individuals will also receive help securing benefits and community-based services to ensure long-term success and recovery. 

Individuals utilizing the new residential step-down programs will also receive assistance from other OMH-supported services, including the Safe Options Support teams, Assertive Community Treatment teams or Intensive Mobile Treatment teams. These teams also provide services and support to unhoused individuals living on the street, in transportation hubs, safe havens, drop-in centers and homeless shelters.

The Office of Mental Health will provide operating funding for the four Residential Step-Down programs, in addition to capital funding once sites are identified. Today’s announcement builds on other efforts to provide safe housing to unhoused individuals living on the street and in the subway system in New York City.  

Earlier this week, Governor Hochul announced the availability of up to $16 million in annual state funding through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative to operate 500 units of scattered-site housing with support services. These units will take referrals from the city’s Safe Options Support teams with a goal of placing unhoused individuals into housing where they can live in an independent setting and fully integrate into their communities.  

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16 MILLION NOW AVAILALBLE TO DEVELOP SUPPORTIVE HOUSING 

Request for Proposals Issued to Add 500 Scattered-Site Supportive Housing Units for People Experiencing Homelessness in New York City

New Units with Supportive Services Will Be Available for People Living with Mental Illness on the Streets or in the Subway System 

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the availability of up to $16 million in annual state funding to operate scattered-site housing with support services for people who are experiencing homelessness on the street and in the subway system in New York City. Administered by the state Office of Mental Health, the funding will help develop 500 additional units of supportive housing, which will then take referrals from the city’s Safe Options Support teams.     

“Now more than ever, we need to invest in our mental health care system and boost treatment services for New Yorkers who lack stable housing,” Governor Hochul said. “These units will provide both a safe home for unhoused New Yorkers as well as supportive services, ensuring the most vulnerable among us have the resources needed to bring stability to their lives.”

Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “Individuals living with mental illness, like all of us, need a safe place to live in a supportive environment. These supportive housing units will provide that safe environment and the services needed for each person to move forward in their recovery. Housing in the community is critical to enable someone living with mental illness to live a full and productive life.”  

Scattered-site supportive housing is integrated housing that consists of apartments located in multiple buildings throughout the community, with each connected to community-based support services based on the needs of the resident. The goal is to place unhoused individuals into a setting where they can live in an independent setting and fully integrate into their communities. The funding is provided by Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI).  

The scattered site units will complement the work underway by the Safe Options Support teams, which work with individuals who have a history of mental illness and/or substance use disorder. These multidisciplinary teams have enrolled 554 unhoused people into Critical Time Intervention services, placing 176 of them into temporary housing. Housing staff will encourage and assist residents to develop community supports, use community resources, and pursue an individualized path towards recovery.

Applicants must develop at least 15 units and may apply for funding to operate up to 60 units. The request for proposals sets a Jan. 30 deadline for submissions. 

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Goals for Happiness and Fulfillment

Goals For Happiness and Fulfillment        by HOWARD DIAMOND

Submitted on December 10, 2022

A goal or goals come in many different incarnations. In some places, it is used as a
sports term. Whether it be when a soccer player puts the ball in the mesh or a hockey
participant shoots the puck in the net, it is considered a goal. Interesting enough, both
competitions have a goalkeeper/goaltender/goalie, protecting opponents from scoring
goal(s). On the other hand, when they make these saves, they are in a goal crease
and their goals against goes down. Andres Cantor, an Argentine-American, and
sportscaster providing Spanish and English narrations of soccer matches and known
for shouting an elongated period, “Goal” when one is scored.

Enough about sports and let us tweak the meaning of goal. Here the definition it is
the object of a person’s ambition or effort, an aim or desired result. Also, it is the end
toward which an effort is directed. Individuals have different ways to make, keep and
maintain successful goals while each person has their own spin on goal uniqueness.
In Mental Health, goals are more specific efforts to ensure that we can make positive
changes for ourselves forever.

Possessing goals is important because it gives us a sense of purpose and a direction
that is positive and that we can strive for. Attaining a goal by creating and completing 

this ourselves goes a long way in improve our well-being as we come closer and closer
to self-fulfillment. Maybe this can allow us to flourish in our relationships, school, career,
work and hobbies. Here are some ideas for good mental health goals:

To practice self-love and self-compassion
Take care of and be kind to our bodies
Make time for mindfulness
Find new ways to handle stress, anxiety and depression
Seek support from family, friends and if necessary, therapy
Bolster one’s support network
Set boundaries and establish when to say “yes” and when to say “no”
Pay attention to and respect our feelings

A major problem in setting goals is that many see them as New Year’s Resolutions
with “hopes and wishes”. Definitely there is something inherently flawed by thinking
that these terms can achieve success. Hoping and wishing may be good for a song
title, but there is no plan, no purpose, and no time frame set for accomplishing the
goals we set for ourselves. Once we come face-to-face with the realities of daily life,
everything fizzles so hopes and wishes are lost. Therefore, a concrete plan needs
to be put in place.

One such concept was originally conceived by George T. Doran in his 1981 paper.
Since then his formula has been used and adapted in many forms. SMART is an
acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based. This
idea has been used by both corporations and individuals for goal-setting. Hey, hey,
it has helped me for many years. On the whole, it works quite well.

SPECIFIC                   is direct, detailed and meaningful.
MEASURABLE          is quantifiable to track progress.
ATTAINABLE            is realistic and we have the tools and resources for it.
RELEVANT                is alignable with our mission and values.
TIME- BASED            is able to have a deadline.

When we start to feel stressed to the extreme and getting overwhelmed, it might be a
good idea to refocus our goals to minimizing, reducing and managing stress. If the
stress is not too bad, and we are finding some happiness and fulfillment, maybe try
and set some stress management goals. This is done by rebranding our current ones
which include our overall well-being. It doesn’t make any difference which goals we are
doing, provide some level of outlets for stress relief. Become and remain aware which
goals will lead to the fulfillment and happiness we all deserve. All types of goals can be
somewhat challenging. These goals are often more rewarding and ultimately lead to
better life experiences.

Maintaining goals can be more involved, but these are the basics four:

SETTING THE RIGHT GOAL
TAKING SMALL, CONCRETE STEPS
REWARDING OURSELVES ALONG THE WAY
CONSIDER SLIP-UPS TO BE PART OF THE PROCESS

Reach all our goals in a realistic way. It might take longer than expected. This can be
the difference between staying with our goals and reaching our goals. Pace ourselves 

through the entire process in each part of goal setting, so we don’t burn out. Try not to 

give up early and or abandoning our goals altogether. Finishing a goal is a great
feeling, so run with it and give ourselves a big pat on the back. Give oneselves
another reward and attempt to relax and enjoy.

Self esteem and self worth are higher. Okay, I hear out there that everyone does
not agree. Well accept this best one can when nothing, I will give all a big pat on
the back and maybe a big hug. Does everyone out there have an increased or
elevated feeling of happiness and fulfillment?  I know I do! Good!

See you in the Newsletters and NewsBlogs.

HOWARD DIAMOND is a Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island 

In Their Shoes with Rich and Rokus Podcast: meeting Jonathan P. Edwards

December 8, 2022 (Reposting from the In Their Shoes Rich and Rokus Podcast site)

Click to play

We met Jonathan for the first time in 2011 when he was the Director of Peer Support Services, Division of Wellness, Recovery & Community Integration at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.

His wisdom on Peer Support is profound and not surprisingly also comes from his own lived experience. What’s cool and special is the fact that he combines this with his academic and research interests; and recently in 2020 earned his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

Jonathan’s amalgam of experience makes for a special episode of “In Their Shoes” with Rich and Rokus. It’s easy to add more facts and figures to his record of accolades and accomplishments in addition to being a great advocate, friend, and mentor. 

#intheirshoeswithrichandrokus #jonathanpedwards #peersupport #livedexperience #podcast #socialisseus

ABOUT IN THEIR SHOES WITH RICH AND ROKUS

Every month Rich and Rokus are recording an episode of the Podcast ‘In Their Shoes, talks across the Big Pond with Rich and Rokus’. All topics are related to social issues around the world. Guest speakers will be invited to join on a regular basis. 

Click to Play

Coalition Files Emergency Request To Stop NYS Unconstitutional Mental Health Involuntary Removal Policy

December 8, 2022 Reposted from NYAPRS ENews

NYAPRS Note: NYAPRS greatly welcomes the action taken yesterday by our legal rights and mental health advocacy colleagues to legally challenge New York City’s new plan to take more homeless people with ‘perceived’ mental illnesses to hospitals against their will if they are deemed a danger to themselves. In collaboration with NY Lawyers for the Public Interest, NAMI-NYC, Community Access and Correct Crisis Intervention Today-NYC, a civil rights law firm argued that the new policy allows a police officer to commit a person to a hospital against his or her will, violating the constitutional right to due process and to protection from improper search and seizure. The motion calls for a temporary restraining order to block the policy from going into effect.

Police officers, the filing says, have “little to no expertise” in handling people with mental disabilities who could be “forcefully — often violently — detained.

The policy creates a “concrete risk” that people will be detained “for merely living with their illness while in a public place,” the motion says and that the new policy violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and the New York City Human Rights Law, as well as constitutional rights.

The group’s news release goes on to say “The plaintiffs include people who were arrested simply for having a mental health diagnosis – or even just being perceived of having a mental health diagnosis – and who were not a harm to themselves or others, but were nevertheless forcibly strapped to gurneys or otherwise restrained and taken against their will to a hospital.

Prior to the suit’s filing, NYPD was moving ahead with Eric Adams’ new mental illness policy, despite lack of training (see NY Post article below). “Big Apple cops have yet to receive training or detailed guidance on how to enforce Mayor Adams’ new mental health plan — but NYPD brass wants them to implement it anyway, according to a new order obtained by The Post.” NYPD officials initially said they were first made aware of the new plan when it was announced, but hours later, walked back that statement, denying leadership was blindsided and that it’s been in the works for “months.” Multiple high-placed sources confirmed to The Post, though, that police brass and NYPD lawyers rushed in the days after the announcement to get the policy on the books. One police source who has advised on NYPD Patrol Guide policy raised red flags over the vague wording that leaves the guidance open to wide interpretation.”

NYAPRS will continue to send out updates through the days ahead.

Advocates for Mentally Ill New Yorkers Ask Court to Halt Removal Plan

NY Times  December 8, 2022

A motion in federal court called for a temporary restraining order, saying Mayor Eric Adams’s plan would violate constitutional rights.

Mayor Eric Adams said the city has a “moral obligation” to help people with mental illness living in the streets and subways.

New York City’s new plan to take more mentally ill homeless people to hospitals against their will if they are deemed a danger to themselves met its first legal challenge on Thursday.

In a federal court motion filed in an existing lawsuit, a civil rights law firm argues that the new policy allows a police officer to commit a person to a hospital against his or her will, violating the constitutional right to due process and to protection from improper search and seizure. The motion calls for a temporary restraining order to block the policy from going into effect.

Police officers, the filing says, have “little to no expertise” in handling people with mental disabilities who could be “forcefully — often violently — detained.”

The request comes nine days after Mayor Eric Adams announced the plan. He said the city had a “moral obligation” to immediately help the hundreds of people whose mental illness prevents them from taking care of basic needs such as food, shelter and health care, even if they pose no threat to others.

New Yorkers in a mental health crisis frequently cycle through hospitals, jails and the streets. Mr. Adams said he would push for hospitals to keep patients until they are stable and a long-term plan for care is in place. But critics note that shortages in hospital beds, appropriate housing and outpatient care will make ending that cycle difficult.

New York’s Law Department said in an email that Mayor Adams’s plan complies with federal and state laws, and that it would make its case in court.

The new motion came in a case filed last year by the firm Beldock Levine & Hoffman, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and other lawyers on behalf of several individuals and advocacy organizations. It challenges the way the Police Department handles what it calls an “emotionally disturbed person.” The city moved to dismiss that lawsuit in September, but the federal judge in the case, Paul A. Crotty, has not ruled yet on the city’s request.

Thursday’s motion argues that the new policy violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and the New York City Human Rights Law, as well as constitutional rights. Under the new policy, a police officer could remove someone involuntarily based on the perception of mental illness and “nothing more,” according to the motion. The policy creates a “concrete risk” that people will be detained “for merely living with their illness while in a public place,” the motion says.

The motion includes a statement from a plaintiff in the suit who has post-traumatic stress disorder and said he was violently detained and involuntarily taken to a hospital in 2020 after someone falsely reported to 911 that he was suicidal. The man, Steven Greene, 27, stated that since the mayor’s announcement, he has been afraid to leave his apartment for fear that he will be forcibly hospitalized “simply for being an individual with a mental disability.”

Under the mayor’s plan, both police officers and mental health workers will be instructed to have people taken to hospitals if their behavior endangers them. A hotline staffed by clinicians will be available to advise the police on whether a person meets that standard.

The state law on involuntary hospitalization empowers the police to have someone who appears mentally ill taken to the hospital only if the person’s conduct is “likely to result in serious harm to the person or others.”

Guidance issued by the state in February said that the standard includes people “who display an inability to meet basic living needs” and that applying it only to people who appear “imminently dangerous” leaves vulnerable people at risk. Mr. Adams’s directive, building on that more expansive wording, says that grounds for hospitalization could include “unawareness or delusional misapprehension of surroundings or unawareness or delusional misapprehension of physical condition or health.”

The motion seeking the restraining order disputes the hypothetical examples Mr. Adams offered of people who would be covered by the new policy. The mayor said the plan would target “the shadow boxer on the street corner in Midtown, mumbling to himself as he jabs at an invisible adversary,” among other examples.

That depiction, the motion says, “does not describe someone who is unable to care for their basic needs, let alone someone who meets the standard of serious danger.”

It added that the city’s plan “is bereft of details as to how an officer may in fact determine whether Mayor Adams’s shadow boxer is unable to take care of his basic needs or is merely exercising.”

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988 Newsletter – 3rd Edition

December 5, 2022

Greetings,

We are pleased to share the third edition of the OMH 988 Updates and Education Newsletter! This edition highlights information on some reasons to contact 988, an introduction of New York’s newest Crisis Contact Centers, and features interviews with three peers and peer allies about their outlook for 988.

The first and second editions of the newsletter, as well as other 988 resources, can be found on the New York 988 web page. 

A PDF version of the 3rd newsletter will be made available in English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese. This resource can also be requested in any language that is not already available on New York’s 988 webpage by filling out the 988 Resource Translation Request Form. 

Thank you for your continued support of 988!

Saludos,

Estamos contentos de compartir la tercera edición del Boletín de Información Actualizada y Educación sobre el 988. Esta edición destaca información sobre las razones para qué ponerse en contacto con el 988, una presentación de los centros de contactos para crisis más nuevos en Nueva York, e incluye entrevistas con tres especialistas en apoyo y aliados de ellos que hablan sobre sus esperanzas para el 988.

Se puede encontrar la primera y segunda ediciones del boletín informativo, y otros recursos sobre el 988, en la página web del 988 de Nueva York. Una versión en PDF del tercer boletín informativo estará disponible en inglés, español, chino simplificado, y chino tradicional. Además, se puede pedir este recurso en cualquier otro idioma que no esté ya disponible en la página web del 988 en Nueva York por rellenar el formulario de pedir traducción de recursos sobre el 988.

¡Gracias por su apoyo continuo del 988!

Katerina Gaylord, LMSW

Deputy Director

Bureau of Crisis, Emergency, and Stabilization Initiatives

Division of Adult Community Care

Office of Mental Health

44 Holland Avenue, Albany, NY 12229

(518) 408-0336 | katerina.gaylord@omh.ny.gov

www.omh.ny.gov