A few days ago, I had the opportunity to work with peer, family, and other advocates, together with representatives of the state Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Division, to begin planning the transformation of the Georgia care system to one that is fully imbued with the principles and practices of recovery. The planning group expressed much optimism about the wonderful improvements that this transformation will herald for the people of Georgia who experience behavioral health and developmental disability conditions.
This Georgia effort is one of 10 state policy academies being conducted by the Center for Social Innovation, as part of its work with SAMHSA under the BRSS TACS—Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Services—contract. Each of these policy academies seeks to plan a recovery-oriented state system.
It really is extremely difficult to overstate the tremendous personal import of the possibility of recovery for someone with one of these conditions. Almost until the millennium, our fields did not offer such hope. People were told that little hope existed for them, and that they always would require continuing care.
However, peers actually knew much, much better. Many had themselves experienced the wonderful process of recovery, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but always moving toward regaining their full voice and a hoped-for life in the community. Unless one has had a behavioral health or developmental disability condition, it probably is almost impossible to appreciate the exhilaration that recovery brings in its wake.
We also have learned from peers that recovery is a life-long process. It requires much effort, vigilance, and support from others who have traversed the same journey. That is why peers and peer support are so essential for a recovery-oriented system of care. Peers offer a friendly helping hand on the recovery journey.
Peer support can extend to family members, especially in situations where a family member is assisting a child or teen to cope with a behavioral health or developmental disability condition. Although such support has been extremely rare in the past, its importance is fully recognized today.
A recovery-oriented system of care—a ROSC—builds on a person’s or family’s strengths through excellent care and the support of peers to address mental health, substance use, and other health conditions. It also offers needed recovery supports, such as housing, education and job supports, and social networks that help the person or family regain the best life possible in the community.
A ROSC recognizes fully that most behavioral health conditions and many developmental disability conditions are caused by trauma. This trauma can arise from poverty, discrimination and exclusion, abuse and violence, and many other sources. Such trauma must be addressed to promote the journey of recovery.
What are some of the essential characteristics of a recovery-oriented system of care? SAMHSA has identified the following seven building blocks: