Alternatives 2001

Philadelphia, PA


Submitted by:  Aleen M. Smith (  or



Many thanks to Katsumi and the Alaska Mental Health Consumer Web / Computer Connection for sending such a wonderful delegation to the Alternatives 2001 conference in Philadelphia!


This was my first Alternatives conference.  Two aspects of the conference were most important for me: first, the opportunity to meet consumer/provider/advocates from all over the nation, and second, the workshops themselves.  Both were enlightening, empowering, and exciting. 


The most important sessions for me were the Mary Ellen Copeland WRAP workshop and the “Recovery University” workshop.  The latter provided an overview of four recovery programs (including WRAP), each of which was developed independently, but each building upon the skill of the previous programs.   On the next two pages are brief descriptions of each of these four programs, with links to their individual websites.  The italicized paragraphs are copied from the websites; other comments or descriptions are my own.


All of these programs are funded by state governments.  Different states sponsor different programs.  In Vermont, for example, the WRAP program is one of several components of its Recovery Education Project:




In August of 1995, the Commissioner of the Department of Developmental and Mental Health Services (DDMHS) established a programmatic priority for the development of recovery-oriented services in the adult mental health service system. One of the major strategies of this programmatic priority was the establishment of a Recovery Education Project. After one year of piloting recovery education activities, Vermont Psychiatric Survivors (VPS), with the assistance of DDMHS, received a generous grant from the Henry van Ameringen Foundation to implement the Vermont Recovery Education Project from July 1st, 1997 to June 30th, 1999. This document summarizes the major activities and results of an evaluation of the Vermont Recovery Education Project. 

Alaska needs to adopt a similar Recovery Priority.  Perhaps our spring 2002 MH Leadership Conference should be dedicated to Recovery programs.  Perhaps one of the non-profit advocacy groups should obtain grant funds (from foundations and/or Federal government) to provide a recovery course as well as a train-the-trainer session.  Perhaps we should develop a petition signed by advocacy organizations, providers, and consumers to challenge the State (AMHTA, AMHB, DMHDD) to provide Recovery programs through all community mental health centers.  Lots of ideas…  responses are welcome! 

We closed the Alternatives Conference with an “Alaska Caucus” called by Yvonne Jacobson (, during which we reached a consensus that RECOVERY IS THE PRIORITY ISSUE.  We each agreed to contact one or a few MH leaders to pass the word along. 





BRIDGES, Building Recovery of Individual Dreams & Goals through Education & Support:


The BRIDGES program is based on the belief that those of us with mental illness "can and do recover a new and valued sense of self and purpose" (DEEGAN) in accepting and overcoming the challenges of a disability that has affected every aspect of our lives: physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. BRIDGES is based on the Journey of Hope.  

BRIDGES provides students with an idea of what Recovery is all about – how it differs from the medical model of mental illness [among other things, the difference between “hospital thinking” (compliance, obedience, dependence) and “recovery thinking” (hope, personal responsibility, self-advocacy]; how it empowers individuals to take responsibility and help themselves; overview of the symptoms of different mental illnesses; introductory ideas about actions we can take to alleviate or lessen the effects of our own symptoms, and how to achieve and maintain wellness.  Bridges is a 15 week course, with meetings once per week.


2WRAP, Wellness Recovery Action Plan:

The WRAP, developed by Mary Ellen Copeland as a component of the Recovery Cycle, is a personal monitoring system in which an individual documents techniques and strategies for reducing symptoms as well as for ongoing management and prevention of symptoms. Components of the WRAP include:

WRAP is a 14-week course, taught in three-hour sessions once a week.


3The Leadership Academy

The Leadership Academy is a training process involving citizenship, advocacy, leadership, and organizational skills for groups of consumers of behavioral health services.  

Resulting outcomes of Leadership Academy training have included an increase in empowerment and networking, better understanding of the workings of systems, development of individual and organizational advocacy skills, and an improvement in leadership skills of individuals and organizations involved in behavioral health.   


4Advocacy Unlimited

Mission Statement:  Advocacy Unlimited, Inc. (AU) is directed and controlled by persons with psychiatric disabilities or people who are in recovery. The Corporation is an organization dedicated to promoting self-determination for these individuals. We will achieve this by advocating for initiatives that further individual rights and choices; by facilitating representation, support and education for people affected by psychiatric disabilities and/or for people who are in recovery. We and these individuals will accomplish this mission by taking an active role in the service delivery system, the legislative process, public education, and coalition-building.

Future leaders of the mental health movement learn advocacy and public speaking skills through an intensive 14 week semester, consisting of a seven hour class each week. Class size is limited to afford plenty of individual attention.  Following graduation, the advocates attend bimonthly continuing education classes in support of their efforts.

Individuals selected to participate make a commitment to volunteer six hours of their time each week for six months at an agency or clubhouse of their choice. They are responsible for arranging presentations and workshops where they can impart the knowledge they have gained to others, thereby encouraging the network to flourish.

These are some but not all of the topics and skills that our students learn:

            Informational Topics:

·         General Information about Advocacy

·         History of the Consumer Movement

·         Americans with Disabilities Act

·         State Legislative Process

·         Fair Housing Act

·         Catchment Area Councils

·         Social Security Benefits

·         Stigma

·         Talking with Legislators

·         State Welfare/Title 19 (Medicaid)

·         Rehabilitation Act

·         Testifying at Legislative Hearings

Skill Building Topics:

·         Time Management

·         Networking Skills

·         Goal Setting

·         Body Language

·         Public Speaking

·         Stress Management

·         Working on a Boards

·         Negotiation Skills

·         Researching Skills

·         Team Building

·         DHMAS: CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services

·         How to use the media

·         Documentation