Lifetime Achievement Award for Pat Deegan

the_muthas-347x171You can find Pat Deegan and her wonderful mental health recovery work on this website in a number of places – just check out by searching. Pat has just won a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award  from the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. Here is what she said on her PDA website:

‘Last week I was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.

My friends Sally Zinman, Jacki McKinney and Gayle Bluebird also received awards. I really enjoyed the way the award ceremony was handled.  Harvey Rosenthal had 5 big armchairs arranged on the keynote stage with mics in front of each.  We were presented with our awards and then had the opportunity to address three questions:

  1. What were the circumstances under which you experienced challenges and the system’s response
  2. How did you “find” the movement
  3. What’s ahead in terms of challenges and opportunities to ensure that our values survive/thrive?

In terms of my concerns about what lays ahead, I mentioned two issues:

1. I am concerned about the inexorable trend toward the integration of primary care and behavioral health services. I am all for wellness and eliminating causes of early mortality and preventable morbidity among our peers.

I am encouraged by peer health coaches and peer navigators entering the workforce.  However, I fear that in the rush to integrate services, the vision of recovery-for-all will take a back seat.

I am concerned that mental health conditions will simply be viewed as medical diseases. I am concerned that psychiatric medication will be the first and only treatment options in primary care settings. 

I am concerned that other evidence based psychosocial treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, supported employment and peer support will not be available. 

I am concerned that the goal of treatment will be lowered from recovery, to mere symptom management and “maintenance”. 

Our community must continue to have robust conversations about these very real dangers and strategize how to insure that recovery is not a casuality in the rush to integrate care. You can read more about my thoughts on that.

2. The second concern I shared was about the burgeoning peer workforce.  31 states now have Medicaid waivers allowing peers to bill for their work.  Getting back into the workforce, having a paying a job and reaching across to help peers is a wonderful development. 

But I get concerned at how underpaid the peer workforce is.  If I step back and look at the really big picture, I get concerned that the peer workforce is helping to prop up a mental health system described as “in shambles” by the President’s New Freedom Commission.

Finally, I am concerned about the cultural undertow that makes it really hard to keep a unique peer perspective alive in traditional mental health work environments. It’s easy to slide into a social work mentality and lose that unique peer perspective.

Again, our community must continue to have a robust dialog about the opportunity and the challenges of entering the behavioral health workforce. You can read more about my thoughts on this subject.

Again, it was an honor to receive the award and to share the stage with my esteemed friends.  Thanks NYAPRS!’