Healing People Healing People: Show This Film At Your Next NAMI/MHA Meeting.

(2-21-23) If your NAMI or MHA local group is looking for a video to watch at your next meeting that examines the intersection of individuals with mental illnesses and law enforcement agencies, please consider showing the 39 minute video HEALING PEOPLE HEALING PEOPLE, a Lee August Praley film.

The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors ( NASMHPD) production focuses on Crisis Intervention Team training for law enforcement and importance of peers. It includes interviews with my son, Kevin, a certified peer specialist.

When the peer movement first began, some parents opposed it, mainly because peers have historically opposed Assisted Outpatient Treatment. But the acceptance of AOT in nearly every state and better training for peers has gradually reduced this conflict.

Now peers are an accepted and intricate part of most mental health departments and recovery programs. This was reiterated to me recently when North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, a Republican from a conservative state, cited the importance of peers during a panel discussion on the Sunday news program FACE THE NATION. His comments came during a discussion about drug addiction.We know that about 40 percent of individuals with mental illnesses also have addiction issues.

GOV. DOUG BURGUM: …In North Dakota, we’ve really taken an approach of understanding that if you’re going to have a war on drugs, which is this thing we’ve been doing in our country since the 1970s and 80s, it can become a war on people who have a health issue they’ve got- addiction is a disease. And so we want to be very tough on the people that are, you know, importing and distributing.

But we also have to understand that if people have the disease of addiction, it’s not a moral choice or a failure, if they have the disease of addiction, any more than it’s a moral choice or failure to have cancer or diabetes. And if we think that the way we’re going to stop drug consumption is with with longer prison terms, or higher penalties, we’re actually just incarcerating people that have a health issue. And so we’ve taken an approach on a number of fronts. One of the things that’s been most successful is a treat – treating the disease of addiction is with peer support specialists, because we know now that someone who’s got lived experience whether that’s in the criminal justice system, or living with the disease of addiction, and in recovery, that they can help people through it as much as  an addiction counselor. 

In a rural state like North Dakota, we had a huge shortage of treatment centers and and in addiction counselors, now we have over 800, certified peer support specialists across the state that are helping people recover, and helping people that are coming out of the criminal justice system stay out by finding a job, getting a driver’s license, and finding a place to live. And so the whole approach is we’ve turned it towards one of – of treating this as a national health crisis, which it is. So we want to be tough on suppliers. But we want to be super supportive of those that are dealing with- “

Maryland’s Governor Wes Moore, a Democrat from a more liberal state, added:

GOV. WES MOORE: Well, you know, I think what was said here was was- is a really important point where we cannot go through the process, the idea that we’re going to criminalize our way out of this. And I think we’ve learned that throughout this process, that we’re dealing with behavioral health and mental health. When you look at the proposed budget, that we laid out, our proposed budget makes historic increases, increases of 39%, that’s actually focusing exclusively on substance abuse disorders on making sure that we’re actually helping people when they’re returning from incarceration. Things like how are we dealing with elements of record expungement, job retraining, job rescaling, making sure there’s a better reintegration with the family.

But there has to be a larger holistic way in the way that we are dealing with this challenge because it is true. We have spent two decades now dealing with a behavioral health challenge, essentially by criminalizing it. And there are long term consequences, economic consequences, societal consequences that I know, in the state of Maryland, that we are aggressively pushing on within the way our administration is looking at this work.

Such comments give me hope that American politicians are finally realizing that those with addictions and mental illnesses need help, not punishment. Now we must convince them that we need more co-occurring treatment programs.

Read full Face The Nation transcript here. 



The post “Addiction, it’s not a moral choice or a failure,” Conservative Governor States On Face The Nation. Also, Peers & Law Enforcement In New Film Worth Watching. appeared first on Pete Earley.

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