I’m the Program Coordinator for a State Chancellor’s grant on Mental Health Client Empowerment at San Jose City College. Yesterday we did a staff training for the Disabled Students Program.
Sixteen clients students and non-students facilitated the training. The prevailing models for mental health disability are counseling-based. For instance the CA Dept. of Rehab is pushing a ‘supported education’ model originating out of the College of San Mateo. However in our view that approach tends to produce ‘compliant students’. [?]
We introduced instead a ‘peer support’ perspective, involving ‘discrimination awareness’. And we did it in a way that means business. We were aided by the coincident fact that the Board of Supervisors approved last month the Central County Self-Help Center lease in San Jose. And by many individual contributions, not the least of which being that the President of the Board of Trustees, Maria Fuentes, (a) is a senior manager at County Mental Health and (b) spoke at the training on behalf of our model.
Presenters included Maria Fuentes, myself, Karen Pullen (DSP Coordinator), Walter Shwe, Jose Rangel, Michele Powers and Cheryl Crose. There were two keynote speeches, the first on the ‘discrimination dilemma’ of treatment by Alison Brunner, Directing Attorney for the Mental Health Advocacy Project (County PRA), the second on voicing the ‘trauma of treatment’ by Selina Glater, formerly Self-Help Coordinator for Santa Barbara County, now with L.A. DMH. After each keynote there were small group (2×2) sessions where facilitators & presenters could talk personally about those topics.
The integrity and forthrightness of the clients was a joy to behold; our unity and steel-eyed resolve spoke volumes. It was clear we were challenging folks and leading them into unfamiliar territory. The core group of participants (trainees) was personally involved and moved. Clearly, however, we pushed the system about as far as it was overtly ready to go, and it will have to absorb what happened and come up with a serious way to move forward.
Special thanks to Nancy Wolfe of SJCC, who wrote the grant, and gave of her heart and insight in a creative way.
CIS Instructor, San Jose City College