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Journey toward recovery in Georgia

June 29, 2017
by Ron Manderscheid, PhD, Exec Dir, NACBHDD and NARMH
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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:




It is unlikely that the social adversities that underlie the Unstable HEALTH of nearly every citizen will improve without a community by community strategy to improve and sustain its level of Social Capital. As a basis to diminish the cognitive dissonance underlying our national conversation about healthcare reform and its role within the Common Good of each community, I offer the following definition for Social Capital: the prevalence of spontaneously expressed cooperation and trust among a community's citizens that eventually occurs from the generational renewal of 'caring relationship' networks involving each of these citizens, their 'extended family,' their neighborhood, and their community institutions. As a reminder, the financial return on investment (ROI) in the social capital for early childhood education has a 7:1 ROI. I propose that the poor awareness regarding the low level of social capital in each community represents the most pressing issue underlying the negligence of our nation's current strategy for healthcare reform, especially for the mental HEALTH of each citizen. Its resolution will need a nationally promoted, community managed strategy. Agriculture already has it through its Cooperative Extension Service, since 1914. We needn't look for new ideas, adjusted for a commigment to serve each community's COMMON GOOD.


Ron Manderscheid

Exec. Dir., NACBHDD and NARMH

Ron Manderscheid


Ron Manderscheid, Ph.D., serves as the Executive Director of the National Association of County...

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