by Howard Diamond

(October 23, 2021)

man jumping into water from pier
Photo by Dmitriy Ganin on Pexels.com

Okay. Ready, Set, Go! Let’s cool off and jump in the pool. Of course, in many parts of the country it is too cold, but there are indoor pools. Does everyone know how to swim? If not, it is time to learn. Maybe we remember the strokes that are necessary and we will just practice what we have been taught. Others do not care to pick up the knowledge or are somewhat afraid. Anyway is fine, but it might  be a good skill to acquire. Perhaps, we will get wet and feel the water splashing on our bodies cooling off from life’s stressful situations. Listen, I still hear music playing, many people laughing and can smell food cooking in the distance from the local restaurants. Spending each day as it comes and it is wonderful.

Most of us enjoyed the recent holiday weekend, without a care in the world. Suddenly, without advanced warning reality begins to set in. Bright skies turn gray, then black and within a second everything stops. No more music, no more smells and especially no one in the outdoor pools. In the distance, I see up ahead something familiar. It is definitely not the signpost from “The Twilight Zone”.  As I awaken, I realize this was all a dream. But what does any of this have to do with being a Peer Specialist? Please read on.

Here my day begins. Time to jump into my situation. It is eight o’clock am and I hear the TV that I left on again and they are still talking about COVID19 and the current stats of vaccination successes and other related information. Although, I am not currently employed as a Certified Peer Specialist, I assist myself and others exploring my skills. Using my tablet, there are many days I attempt to connect with people from other countries with their unique English pronunciations and spelling. Of course, I respect their different cultures. Like most individuals, they are dealing with their issues and current situation the best way they can. My role is to do some “active listening” and use different techniques to assist them.

One person I connected with stated that he is drinking too much, so I tried my hand doing Harm Reduction. On another occasion I employed different types of relaxation techniques to a man who barely leaves his home because of the stress of both COVID19 and his many anxieties. Other people are my local residents so it’s time to schedule an appointment to work on their budgets or other options to assist them to stretch their finances each day . Each individual needs to be heard and Peer Specialists, like myself are there for support.

For many years, I believed it was my obligation to help all sorts of people where and when I can. Since 1994 and probably earlier, I have been assisting individuals with mental and or physical health issues as my livelihood. In 2017, I became a Certified Peer Specialist, where I feel it is my responsibility to  help others. Now that I am not working, most times, no payments are given for my services. What I get is a rush of satisfaction throughout my body which serves as an internal reward and drives my work forward. Other Peer Specialists can think of many various volunteer opportunities to find a way to give back. So jump in and try something. Also, this may possibly be a springboard to paid employment and even a career. Like jumping off a diving board. Only kidding, everyone. Let me get back to being serious. One paragraph left.

Furthermore, I write these articles to promote what PEER SPECIALISTS CAN ACCOMPLISH! Yes, in fact, PEER SPECIALISTS DO ACCOMPLISH!!!

We are continually growing in numbers and in many more avenues of life. Let’s do our part, too. One Peer Specialist at a time. Over there, do we see that guy? He is jumping in the pool. Do we surmise that his profession is possibly a Certified Peer Specialist or wants to be one? Mmm, probably not. Maybe some people out there want to be one. Jump in and enjoy everyone

See you in the NewsBlogs.

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

Timothy Brown

(October 26, 2021 – Courtesy Adam Black)

Timothy Brown, poet

Timothy Brown, a Westchester County-based poet and peer, has recently published two books of poetry, Poetic Madman and Twisted Rage. More information can be found on Tim’s website, timothyspoetry.com. Tim’s website has poems and other writings of his, recorded readings of his work, a link to get in contact via email (which Tim eagerly welcomes), and more. 

Tim is a poet since childhood; his work deals with a variety of themes with a focus in particular on mental health challenges and resilience. When Tim found himself confined at home by COVID beginning in March 2020 he decided to use this time to pursue his long-held ambition of publishing a book of his work–so far he has completed two!  Please take the opportunity to learn more about Timothy Brown and his work on his website, and any purchases you make will support this talented local artist.

I write about my experiences in the mental health system. I write about everything, good and bad. I don’t sugarcoat what I have to say. I have had people come to me and thank me for putting what they would like to say–but cannot–into words. My goal is to reach my peers, my practitioners, families and those who are interested in getting to know us and understand us. I believe I can be a voice for many people.

   – Timothy Brown

How We Celebrated Global Peer Support Celebration Day!

(October 22, 2021)

7th Annual Global Peer Support Celebration Day!
October 21, 2021

Yesterday (October 21) was the 7th Annual Global Peer Support Celebration Day. I was at the National Peer Specialist Conference in Atlanta on the day a Dan O’Brien -Mazza, (then) Director of Peer Services in the VA proposed a celebration day to Steve Harrington, (then) Executive Director of the International Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS), which has since been renamed as the National Association of Peer Supporters (N.A.P.S.).

The main intent of this day of celebration is to recognize he contributions of peer supporters and to help to raise awareness of the work we do.

Yesterday was the first day of this year’s two-day Virtual National Conference, hosted by N.A.P.S., with a number outstanding presenters (view here) and a special award ceremony that featured Harvey Rosenthal paying tribute to our movement’s two recently lost advocates Darby Penney and Jacki McKinney.

Traditionally, groups come together at noon to take a photograph of how they’re celebrating. The Academy of Peer Services is in the midst of recording a training series on Telehealth Peer Support led by Shannon Higbee and Rusty Foster. At noon, participants were given the option of coming on camera to share in the celebration.

APS class

Later in the evening, the APS Virtual Community held an Open Mic night for peers to come together to celebrate the day. DJ What kicked off the evening, which was filled with songs, poems, artwork, dancing, and a lot of laughs. To view selected creative expressions from the evening, click here.

Advance Employment of New Yorkers with Disabilities

(Courtesy NYAPRS E-News)

October 21, 2021

NYAPRS Note: Advocates for people with disabilities called on NYS government to implement a sweeping package of policy reforms aimed at increasing employment among New Yorkers with disabilities at a joint NYS Assembly committee hearing in Albany yesterday. NYAPRS COO Len Statham’s powerful testimony focused in particular on strategies identified by the Employment Committee of New York’s Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC). See the full text of our testimony below for details.

Other MISCC committees have been working to promote deinstitutionalization, community services and supports and an updating of New York’s 2013 Olmstead Plan. See the attached presentation that Council members gave at the most recent September 29th MISCC meeting and learn more about the MISCC at https://www.ny.gov/olmstead-community-integration-every-new-yorker/most-integrated-setting-coordinating-council-miscc.

NYAPRS Testimony by Len Statham, Chief Operating Officer, NYAPRS

Saving Lives, Reducing Trauma

Courtesy New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI)

October 20, 2021

Our big announcement this week has been the release of our Mental Health Crisis Response report: Saving Lives, Reducing Trauma. The report documents the results of a survey of New Yorkers who experienced mental health crises. We invite you to read more on our findings and to share the report with your networks.

Additionally, NYLPI supported transit and disability activists pushing for congestion pricing and the Open Data Act, and Hayley Gorenberg, Legal Director at NYLPI, spoke on a panel regarding Gender Justice.

ANNOUNCING: Saving Lives, Reducing Trauma: Removing Police from NYC’s Mental Health Crisis Response

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) released Saving Lives, Reducing Trauma: Removing Police from New York City’s Mental Health Crisis Response, a report documenting the results of a survey of New Yorkers who have experienced mental health crises. The report uncovers disturbing trends as a result of police response in these situations. The survey responses underscore that when police are deployed as first responders to the crises, individuals experience fear, trauma and deepening distrust of mental health systems and resources, deterring people from seeking further help. (Read More)

GPSCD Proclamation

(October 19, 2021)

Cathy Frusciante shared the Global Peer Support Celebration proclamation (below).
Thanks Cathy! 

Hi all, 
Thought I’d share how my celebration is getting started. The word is getting out folks. Received my proclamation (from the toolkit) today with many many thanks to our fantastic Mayor Roach of White Plains, NY. They mentioned they just may post in their White Plains newsletter too. Woohoo! It’s a great feeling to be supported am I right? 
Be well & stay well~Cathy Frusciante 

How Will You Celebrate?

7th Annual Global Peer Support Celebration Day, 2021

To learn more about Global Peer Support Celebration Day, click here
For more ideas to recognize and participate in the 7th Annual Global Peer Support Celebration Day, including the text used in this proclamation, visit the N.A.P.S. Toolkit.
The N.A.P.S. Annual Conference is on October 21 and 22: Conference Schedule.
Join our APS/NYAPRS team Maryam Husamudeen and Rita Cronise for a fun Open Mic celebration of Global Peer Support Celebration Day from 7:30 – 8:30 Thursday, October 21. 

OMH Releases CORE Operations Manual and Guidance Documents

(Courtesy NYAPRS E-News)
Attn: Adult BH HCBS Providers

NYAPRS: The CORE initiative (Community Oriented Recovery and Empowerment) is a new Medicaid design that is expected to go live in February that funds psychosocial, peer support, family support and Community Psychiatric Support and Treatment. OMH and OASAS have created a design that “will eliminate many of the barriers to access while preserving the heart of individualized, community-based rehabilitation services.”

CORE Website is now live! (click to view)

New York State (NYS) is excited to be moving forward with Community Oriented Recovery and Empowerment (CORE) Services. As previously announced via the BH HCBS Listserv, NYS has received approval from CMS to implement and we are planning for a go-live date of February 1, 2022.

Please see the site for up to date documents and information. Additional guidance documents will be uploaded as they are available, and announcements describing changes will be made via the listserv.

We hope you find the documents on the website helpful as you begin planning for implementation.

  1. CORE Operations Manual for Designated Providers
  2. Policy Regarding Provider Transition to CORE Services and Provisional/ Full Designation
  3. CORE Benefit and Billing Guidance
  4. CORE LPHA Memo and Recommendation Form
  5. CORE Services Initiation Notification Template
  6. CORE Services Fee Schedule

In the coming weeks, additional guidance will be made available, including a CORE Staff Training Memo and Incident Reporting and Management Guidance for BH HCBS and CORE Services.

NYS plans to host a detailed implementation webinar on October 22, 2021 for providers, HARPs, and HIV-SNPs. During this meeting, NYS will share additional training and technical assistance opportunities. Training announcements and registration information will be distributed via MCTAC and the Adult BH HCBS Listserv. Questions and requests for support may be sent via email to the appropriate host agency:



Dave A. Chokshi, MD MSc, Commissioner  


Monday, October 18, 2021


The resolution recognizes the impact of racism on health during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

The resolution requests several actions from the Health Department including making recommendations to the NYC Racial Justice Commission, establishing a Data for Equity working group, performing an anti-racism review of the NYC Health Code, and issuing a semi-annual report on progress associated with this resolution

October 18, 2021 – The New York City Board of Health today passed a landmark resolution on racism as a public health crisis, requesting that the Health Department expand its anti-racism work. The resolution institutionalizes the vision behind the Health Department’s June 2020 declaration and requires that the Department develop and implement priorities for a racially just recovery from COVID-19, as well as other actions to address this public health crisis in the short and long term.

“To build a healthier New York City, we must confront racism as a public health crisis,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “The COVID-19 pandemic magnified inequities, leading to suffering disproportionately borne by communities of color in our City and across our nation. But these inequities are not inevitable. Today is an historic day for the country’s oldest Board of Health to officially recognize this crisis and demand action.”

“We’ve seen for years the negative impact racism has in our public health data and today, we’re recommitting ourselves to building a more equitable City,” said First Deputy Commissioner and Chief Equity Officer Dr. Torian Easterling. “I thank the Board of Health for sharing our commitment to dismantling systemic racism. (Read More)

In Honor and Memory of Jacki McKinney

(Courtesy, Harvey Rosenthal, NYAPRS)

I learned yesterday of the passing of another great hero of our movement Jacki McKinney. I first met Jacki in her role as a peer researcher in the early 1990’s, possibly in connection with the Center on Women, Violence, and Trauma. From the start, she was a one-of-a-kind force unto herself, someone who could light up the room with her stories of triumph over tragedy and family above all, warming our hearts with her ever kind loving compassion.

(Photo Credit, NYAPRS)

She was also a kickass candid truth teller, who could challenge and forgive you at the same time….. someone who often said what others couldn’t or wouldn’t, amidst a mix of pointed honesty and lightness and laughter.

And oh that laugh. Whenever you heard that mix of joy and playful outrage in that laugh, you’d have to follow it across the room until you saw that smile and that spirit, always surrounded by the crowd who always sought her out after every inspiring and enlivening talk she had just given. 

She was always an activist and advocate who challenged us all…challenged the system and the movement alike to listen to women of color with lived experience of trauma and tragedy. You had to talk sometimes, she said, so that others would shut up and listen 😊.

Three views of Jacki that NYAPRS and I will always treasure:

  • Several hours after the trauma of the September 11 attacks on New York City began to take hold, NYAPRS leaders met and decided to go forward with our annual conference that was to start the next day. Hundreds joined us from across update New York but hundreds more were unable to pass through the City to get to our Catskills hotel site. Jacki was to be one of our keynoters that year and, as she lived in Philly, we didn’t expect that she could make it. How thrilled we were when she showed up, having gotten to us by train and who knows how else! She highlighted that conference, walking amidst the hushed numb gatherings, bringing light and kindness to all.
  • Months later, we decided to hold a special conference in New York City for those who couldn’t join us before. And once again, Jacki joined us and spread that wonderful spirit around, clad in African garb to match the racial and ethnical unity theme of that event.
  • And, several years later, she provided the spark in a wonderful ‘Mothers of the Movement’ conference panel that featured Sally Zinman, Gayle Bluebird, Pat Deegan and our Jacki.

I loved Jacki dearly…….and she loved all of us and gave so freely of her courage, compassion and heart. We will be looking upwards and listening carefully for that laughter to warm and cheer us on throughout our days. Listen to her wonderful talk at https://youtu.be/A6xthJYWBtE and read the extraordinary account below of our Jacki’s life and gifts and legacy.

Jacki McKinney: An Expert In Trauma

By BlkSpace Therapy

Jacki McKinney is an activist and social advocate for survivors of trauma. McKinney was born in New Jersey on October 18th, 1934, from a very young age as early as two years old she was abused by her father beginning a cycle of trauma she dealt with over the next 50 years of her life.

As a child she had difficulties expressing what was really going on in addition to being punished or ignored if she tried. Her limitations around her continued suffering due to abuse led to her expressing more physical symptoms of illness than the emotionally illness she was experiencing.

Overwhelmed by the constant abuse by the age of nine years old she had stopped walking. McKinney’s physical display of ailment ended up getting her put in a home for disabled children.  Unfortunately, the home for disabled children was just as traumatic. The facility housed all White staff and patients in addition to acting as housing for children suffering from the contagious disease, polio.

An 11 year old McKinney returned home no longer fueled by fear and confusion but instead a rage that grew from the knowledge of her truth.

This rage stayed with her for the next 40 years of her life. As she continued to experience traumas through her life, she stated in an interview that “I was victimized again in the streets of New York by a serial rapist along with a lot of other women who seemingly got over it. But I didn’t. And because of my background, my history and lack of treatment I had a major break. My mama would call it a break down but it was a break up and I ended up living homeless in the streets walking away from the family, walking away from my husband, walking away from my house, my life and I never regained those things but I did regain my family.”

This break led her to becoming homeless on the streets of Washington DC which is where she met two women with the D.C. Rape Crisis Center who help get her back on her feet and involved with advocacy and activism.

In her time with them they set her up with some of the most elite medical professionals in the country but there Jacki began to notice the issue that none of the elite doctors and therapists could relate to her or with her. This ignited a new fire in Jacki to talk about the lack of culture competency in the medical profession around mental health and trauma that she knew all too well.

She then went on to join the Consumer Movement in New York to focus on the mental health industry. Her first role in activism was in welfare rights fighting for the rights of other women and other mothers, which she said was the first time in her life something had been dealt with as a woman and a mother in a positive way. She then joined a program called New Careers for the Poor. New York was one of the demonstration states so she was recruited to go to school and to go to work.  From that experience she went on to go to get a GED and then to go on to college.

From there she went on to join the Consumer Movement in Philadelphia becoming the Director of the first consumer operating service program, a case management unit. All the people in the unit were people who were consumers (patients) of mental health making the case management program  the most radical program made to date because it was also the first to use current mental patients on the professional team. All of them were people of color and they felt it was vital to the program that they had people who could connect with the patient they were trying to serve. The program was part of a research demonstration funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the first government funded peer support group. At the same time Jacki also  attended her first Alternative conference, which is where consumers get together and share ideas and present programs. Opening Jacki’s eyes to more ways to get involved. 

After the passing of the American Disabilities Act Jacki joined a training done by the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. While there Jacki joined a conference called Dare Vision where she claims to have after 50 years truly defined her trauma which she said was a big moment for her because with the definition came clarity in defining herself. Unfortunately, after the moment of clarity she was overrun by fear for the next few years about what to do with the possibility of being well and the fear consumed her keeping her from leaving her home for a whole 2 years. It wasn’t until months of talking with a doctor and encouragement for colleagues to take a job as a Dare Division technical expert that she was able to overcome her fear.

Soon after her time with the Dare Division she joined a Co-Occurring Disorders Study done by SAMHSA as an advisor to the study. She stated in an interview “the biggest piece I brought to that study was do not study the women without studying their children because my children lived lives of hell because I lived a life of hell.” a fact many know too well. Soon after her time with the study she began to be a national spokesperson for the issue of trauma. She had three main goals as a spokesperson. The first was to develop a policy against seclusion and restraint. The second was to spread the knowledge that if you don’t treat the children when you’re treating the mother, then you’re creating the second generation of the same issue. The third was to inform that battered women make up a large portion of the prison recurring recidivism rates.

In 1994, she went on to join the National Consumer Survivor Social Policy & Research Work Group. The goal of the organization was to be at the making of policy, to be a part of defining what research would be, and to make sure it was useful to those in need. However issues began to arise with the organization as there was no recognition on the agenda that there were people of color in the movement, there was no recognition there were women in the movement, and they were assumed to be white males because that’s who led it.

After addressing her concerns with the board she faced a strong backlash from some of the white members. So she went on to co-found the National People of Color Consumer Survivor Network with the goal to see African-Americans in front of the room helping set the agenda, helping to talk about what the issues are. In 1996, the goal shifted to become trained as cultural competency experts. Jacki stated the intention was that “we would not be coming and taking that one chair that they’re so scared of losing of the five chairs they’ve had for the last five years. The white consumers who started the movement who don’t want to give up a chair. We could create a new chair. We could also bring to them a new skill and a new understanding and they can then go out and join us as people who know this work and they can write it on their resume that they can understand and they can do this piece, too. So, it’s only a win-win situation. Nobody’s going to lose.”[source].

That epitomized Jacki’s philosophy and showcased the reason she went on to become a recipient of Mental Health America’s highest honor, the Clifford W.  Beers award, presented to a consumer of mental health and/or substance abuse services who best reflects the example set by Beers in his efforts to improve conditions for, and attitudes toward, people with mental illnesses.

She also became the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration’s Voice Awards program which was presented to her for her distinguished leadership and advocacy on behalf of trauma survivors.

Jacki McKinney’s story and accomplishments could fill many books so I’ll wrap the spotlight with a message from Jacki herself she gave in an interview I encourage you all to read:

“I’d like to add to all the children, adult children, of parents who have mental illness, I think every single one of you should remember that there’s a great deal of pain in your life no matter where you are and what you’re doing that makes you vulnerable and that you should do whatever you can to find out all about this mental illness issue – to look into your own past and resolve some of those pains because one day out of the blue that may come back to haunt you – the fact that you’ve been asked to close the door and not deal with it.

You are vulnerable and you need to know it and you need to go explore a wellness plan for yourself. You need to stop hiding behind the bushes and stop saying it’s what your mom did or what your dad did or what your grandparents did and you need to look at what the effect is on you. It’s a personal thing. I’m not asking you to help them. I’m asking you to help you because you don’t and it hits you, you got all that blame that you’ve been blaming on someone else and now you see that you didn’t take care of yourself and it can really be devastating. And you can end up sicker than any of us. Such a painful piece of knowledge. But now while you have the time, now while you’re reading this archive and it points to you, go do some reading, do some looking. Go find a way to be well yourself. Go look. That’s it.” ~~Jacki McKinney


Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Awareness Month!

NYSOMH Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Awareness Month (Courtesy NYAPRS E-News)

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month this year, the New York State Office of Mental Health’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion wishes to recognize and honor the remarkable contributions and commitment that Hispanic and Latinx individuals have made to the mental health field. Additionally, OMH recognizes the unique challenges faced by Hispanic and Latinx individuals and reaffirms the Agency’s commitment to ensuring marginalized, underserved and minority communities receive equal access to quality mental health services and supports.

haga clic para ver (click to view)

OMH wishes to highlight some of the many individuals who have demonstrated unwavering commitments and dedication to OMH’s mission to promote the mental health of all New Yorkers. These individuals have all made amazing contributions to the mental health system as a whole and demonstrate the importance of holding the system accountable for making change and promoting equity across all areas. (Read More)