A great piece by Harvey Rosenthal of NYAPRS, long an advocate for the
entire mental health community—not just those with a single perspective. He
maps out the importance of the recovery movement without minimizing other
aspects of mental health care.

My Perspective

I strongly believe that there is no cookie cutter version of recovery. We
have long advocated for as many tools in the work bench as possible. That
is why we fight for medication access and clinic rate increases as well as
the HCBS services around peer support, supported employment, supported
education and family engagement. The so called Medical Model and the so
called Recovery Model are not incongruous. They are both part of the
entire spectrum of whole person health. For my loved one, the combination
of medication and employment has largely been responsible for their great

To say that one perspective is more significant than another perspective
minimizes the entire population of those who we are advocating for on a
daily basis. Speaking as a family member, all I ever want is my loved one
to get better. A bifurcated system only represents another hurdle we
shouldn’t have to cross.

Harvey Rosenthal: The “Worried Well” – A False Narrative Meant To Divide

(5-15-17) I bumped into Harvey Rosenthal recently at the National Council
on Behavioral Health Care convention
in Seattle and invited him to write a guest blog. Harvey is Executive
Director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services
and one of the best known advocates for recovery
and peer support services. Given what seems to be a constant battle being
waged between the “medical model” that focuses on medication adherence and
the “recovery model” that focuses on peer support and other social
services, I thought it would helpful to hear his point of view, especially
because a new Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
will soon be appointed.)


Re-Balancing Federal Policy Need Not Have To Choose Between Extremes

For far too long, advocates for court mandated outpatient commitment have
promoted the false narrative that recovery, rehabilitation and peer support
providers and advocates don’t want to serve Americans with the most serious
conditions…..and that our motivation in supporting the redirection of
public funds from hospital to community is simply to capture public dollars
for our own purposes. In contrast, these groups have outrageously played
upon unfounded connections between violence and mental illness to promote a
singular one-size-fit-all prescription of “more meds, more beds and more

Along the way, these groups have promoted beliefs that a recovery and rehab
focus only applies to the ‘worried well’ and excludes the most distressed,
that peer support is inevitably against treatment and medication and that
rights advocates are only interested in helping people in the greatest need
to avoid such treatment.

In recent years, subscribers to these beliefs have succeeded in capturing
the attention and support of conservative Republicans, think tanks and the
tabloids. They have heavily informed the efforts of self-styled mental
health reformer Rep. Tim Murphy and are apparently poised to see the
appointment of an apparently like-minded first HHS Assistant Secretary for
Mental Health Services.

Advocates across our spectrum must join together to educate both the Senate
that will be confirming the first HHS Secretary for Mental Health and let
the public know that millions of Americans with the most serious behavioral
health conditions would indeed be homeless, incarcerated or dead *if
recovery providers were not there, *offering crisis support and criminal
justice diversion, homeless outreach and housing, suicide prevention and
early intervention.

We must make very clear that it was the recovery and peer support movements
that emerged 5 decades ago to demand that we raise the bar for what is
possible for people with behavioral health conditions and for what should
be expected from our services. Where would we be today had they not had the
courage and determination to do so?

We must make clear that the evidence is clear that housing first and peer
support are helping to engage and save our most needy. We must push back
when Secretary for Mental Health candidate Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz talks
about cutting funds to grow peer services that she claims only “trivialize
the devastation” that those who offer peer support know most about.

I can assure you that we are not the ‘worried well.’ That’s why New York is
poised to launch a new pilot that will rely on peers, a care manager and a
part time nurse to provide immediate, intensive and sustained support to
unengaged, distressed individuals who have not previously accepted services
and to their families.

There are extremes on both sides of the continuum…bluntly put, those who
believe that recovery approaches abandon the ‘sickest’ and those who argue
that there is no such thing as ‘mental illness.’ Re-balancing federal
policy need not have to choose between one extreme or the other.

To be clear, that’s not where the vast majority in our field and in our
movement are today. Many of us, like me, take medication and, at the same
time, rely on peer support to find our hope and our health. And a few of
us, like me, greatly appreciate the work that groups like the Treatment
Advocacy Center have done to shine the light on the terrible consequences
of system failure. But while groups like these ask the right questions,
they endlessly promote the wrong answers.

We must join forces in the coming months and years to fight to ensure that
the regressive views, mean-spirited tactics and falsehoods of the “back to
the past” wing do not undo decades of progress and, in doing so, deny
recovery, rehabilitation and peer support for Americans in the greatest

They need us to stand up for them now.

See Harvey’s address on the false connection between mental illness and
violence before a work group sponsored by the National Academies of Science
in 2014.



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