Advocates Unite at NYAPRS Conference

Posted on October 25, 2012
Brittany and Alan pause for a photo-op at the NYAPRS conference. Brittany and Alan pause for a photo-op at the NYAPRS conference.I attended the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) Hudson Valley Conference with Dice Cooper, Brittany Herbert, Megan Kelly and Joe McWalters. The event was held at the Hudson Valley Resort - a beautiful setting surrounded by mountains and greenery. The NYAPRS conference is widely regarded as one of the nation’s finest events promoting the recovery, rehabilitation and rights of people with psychiatric disabilities. NYAPRS joins with many partners from across New York State and the country to provide an unprecedented program advancing the transformation of our state and local mental health service and support systems.

This year, the conference theme was “Keeping the Integrity in Integration.” There were many special, cutting-edge presenters and presentations; over 60 timely workshops and plenary; a Health, Healing, Art Fair; and multicultural exhibitions. There were activities involving Shiatsu, massage, an art table, drumming, yoga, even learning how to tweet!

The Conference had several keynote speakers, including Ms. Keris Myrick, (PhD) Project Return Peer Support Network; Commissioner Michael Hogan, New York State Office of Mental Health (He also received a humanitarian award for all he has done in the mental health field); Paolo del Vecchio, MSW, Center for Mental Health Services/SAMHSA; and Ann Ridere, MSW, CPRP, Recovery Empowerment Network.

As I said before, there were over 60 workshops, besides plenary sessions; each day I had to prioritize the workshops I wanted to go to. The first one I participated in was “Clubhouses and Community Colleges: Now That Is Integration!” It was facilitated by my friend David Plotka, LMSW, Danyel Wendroff, MFA and Connie Schwartz, all from Venture House, in Jamaica, Queens. The workshop demonstrated how ICCD-accredited (International Center for Clubhouse Development) clubhouses have partnered with community colleges in order to promote community integration.

Thursday morning, I made my way to “New York Health Homes Workshop: A Progress Report.” Greg Allen, MSW, from the NYS Department of Health presented the different phases of Health Homes and the implementation schedule. For instance, Phase I and II were awarded and are starting up, while Phase III Health Homes are poised to begin. Robert Meyers, PhD, and Doug Ruderman, LCSW, from the NYS Office of Mental Health, joined him to discuss how Health Homes increased accountability and improved treatments for consumers.

After a really delicious lunch, I went to a workshop called “Enhancing the Integration of Health and Behavioral Health through Cultural Diversity,” facilitated by Marylee Burns, MED, LMHC, Linda Richard NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation and Peer Health Coaches Miriam Wexler (our own Fountain House member), Vernell Robinson, and Nestor Sousa. In this marvelous workshop they handed out a booklet entitled “Guide to Keeping Healthy after the Hospital,” which I can personally relate to since I am a melanoma (cancer) survivor. It gives tips to manage your mental as well as physical health, and it is in easy to read language.

On Friday, one of the most unusual workshops I attended was run by a stress coach, Bret Cotter, BA. It was a very simple course of light exercise that can help you clear your mind at any time. Participants were guided through three enjoyable steps to a calm, peaceful mind. Wow! I totally walked away from that group relaxed and happy!

All in all, I had a marvelous time at the very educational and interesting 30th Annual Hudson Valley Conference. Be sure to catch it next year!

Alan Miller
Clerical Unit and Advocacy Committee, Fountain House

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