Saturday, April 30, 2011


In my mental health recovery, one of the most powerful messages I ever received was that "The Expectation is Recovery!" This was powerful because it communicated that recovery is a very real option. I learned this message from the State of Illinois, Department of Human Services/Division of Mental Health. I think the Illinois General Assembly should be afforded the same kind of powerful message, a hopeful message that puts the focus on what is possible instead of what is not possible. In our phone calls and letters, we need to communicate our expectations for the best possible outcome by stating the following.

"We expect better budgeting solutions that will meet the health, safety and welfare needs of persons dependent upon human services."

I am reminded of Apollo 13 and how NASA was faced with a seemingly impossible situation, much like the leadership of our state is in right now. Here are some additional messages you may wish to communicate with elected officials based on clips from the movie.




Critical decisions will soon be made (possibly this week) about the Illinois Budget. Please, if you haven't already, place a call to your Representatives and Senators urging them to find better budgeting solutions that will meet the health, safety and welfare needs of persons dependent upon human services. Thank you for your advocacy efforts. TOGETHER WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Thursday, April 28, 2011


This Wednesday there was a press conference in Springfield and Paralee Stewart, one of our Health Care Task Force (HCTF) members, gave a moving speech about how human services has impacted her family. In particular, she spoke about the disparity between privately funded and publicly funded mental health care for her son Daryl. She talked about how his medication options significantly decreased when his private health insurance coverage was lost. She also spoke about lack of care available within the public system. The problem is not quality, but quantity, of mental health services. She went on to say that her son committed suicide as a direct result of not being able to access the treatment he so desperately needed. The first reporter asked his name. His name was Daryl. Another reporter asked the date of his death. Daryl died on election day.

I don't know if any legislatures inside of the capital building heard of Paralee's tragic loss. I don't know if they hear us now when we write letters that are printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch saying people will die because of human service budget cuts. I don't know if they hear us when we provide written testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee that knowingly removing life-saving programs is criminal negligence. The House Appropriations Committee did hear us today when I gave testimony (thanks to Representative Feigenholtz & her office staff for coordinating a reasonable accommodation with DHS) asking them to come up with better solutions for people dependent on the human service budget. Human services saves lives and money. I know they heard. I'm just wondering if they're listening.


April 28, 2011

In Madison County, Illinois a 44 year old woman with a mental health condition left an abusive relationship and does not have housing. She is not eligible for housing at the local domestic violence shelter because she does not have children and the battery she experienced was not recent enough.

She has the choice of staying on the street or staying with someone who will hurt her again.

Our government has the choice of funding housing or supporting domestic violence.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Yesterday the Illinois General Assembly posted that the House Appropriations Human Services Committee will hear testimony on the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget on Thursday, April 28th at 8:00am. This is also the same day that the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois (CBHA) is sponsoring an Advocacy Day for community behavioral healthcare which is from 8:00am to 1:00pm. The CBHA flyer states, and I wholeheartedly agree, that our legislatures must see and hear us. But how will they see and hear us if we are not yet awake?

I usually wake up around 8:00am and try to avoid scheduling anything until after 11:00am because my morning routine is critical to my mental health. Many of my peers take medication before going to bed which has side effects that make it extremely difficult to wake up in the early morning hours. It's a tough choice for persons with mental health conditions to decide between our personal mental wellness and advocacy for services that helps sustain our lives.

This is why I called Representative Sara Feigenholtz's office today and asked for an accommodation. As I explained to the woman who works in her office, waking up three hours sooner than I usually do has the potential to negatively impact my mental health. Since there are many human service testimonies that need to be heard that morning, I believe it is reasonable to ask that mental health be placed later on the morning agenda. She called me back to tell me that she didn't think it would be a problem and they were checking with DHS to see if they will be able to accommodate my request. I guess I'll find out on Monday and want to encourage all supporters to please join us in Springfield on Thursday. Hope to see you then!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Today at the Madison County Continuum of Care annual meeting, I heard repeated accounts of how individuals who previously experienced homelessness have transitioned into having a home, securing employment, paying taxes and restoring family relationships. The audience was also informed that if legislatures make decisions to decrease state housing funds it will result in local counties defaulting on federal government agreements for matching dollars. In other words, local communities which already have a greater demand than supply, will experience double the loss. As Larry Evans, Lead Chair for the UCM Health Care Task Force, said to me "Doing what Jesus Christ would have us do is usually the most cost-effective approach."

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
-Matthew 25:35 & 36, NIV



I believe it is possible to recover from any life circumstance and I am living proof.

I went from experiencing homelessness, to living in public housing, to owning my own home.

I went from being told I would never work again due to a psychiatric disability, to volunteering and gaining job skills, to working in the mental health arena.

Today I am transitioning from being dependent upon disability income to living independently with earned income. I do public speaking engagements and mental health trainings. I am also in college.

Things that have been critical to the restoration of my life include a supportive faith community, the public mental health system and vocational rehabilitation services.

I am taking a political science class and to earn extra credit, I began co-chairing the United Congregations of Metro East (UCM) Health Care Task Force. This responsibility is very near and dear to my heart and I have created this blog for the purpose of sharing what is happening to the public mental health system from my perspective. I will try to update a few times each week and hope you find this to be resourceful.

Blessings upon you!

Monday, April 18, 2011


April 18, 2011

In Madison County, Illinois a young man has no place to live. He is working part-time and uses public transportation.

He has no options.

Our government has the choice of funding housing or neglecting the health, safety and welfare of this man.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


April 12, 2011

In Madison County, Illinois a Mom and four children have no place to live. The Mom has applied for a transitional housing program, but nothing is available at the moment.

She has no options.

The government has the option of funding housing or neglecting children and families.