Consumer Integration
http://pathprogram.samhsa.gov/Channel/Consumer-Integration-754.aspx
7/22/2014 3:39 PM

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Consumer Integration
Since the late 1970s, mental health and substance use organizations have promoted consumer integration in an effort to create recovery-oriented environments. Consumer integration promotes the recovery values of empowerment, peer support, and hope and contributes to creating person-centered, trauma-informed program environments. The growth of the mental health consumer self-help movement, the Federal Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) Community Support Program, and the development of person-oriented policies for people with mental illnesses at the Federal level (Van Tosh, 1993) have led to increased levels of consumer participation and involvement. In 2003, the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health report called for consumers to be involved in planning, delivering, and evaluating mental health services. Since the late 1970s, mental health and substance use organizations have promoted consumer integration in an effort to create recovery-oriented environ...
ments. Consumer integration promotes the recovery values of empowerment, peer support, and hope and contributes to creating person-centered, trauma-informed program environments. The growth of the mental health consumer self-help movement, the Federal Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) Community Support Program, and the development of person-oriented policies for people with mental illnesses at the Federal level (Van Tosh, 1993) have led to increased levels of consumer participation and involvement. In 2003, the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health report called for consumers to be involved in planning, delivering, and evaluating mental health services.

Consumers can act as recovery ambassadors, conveying messages of hope and the possibility of having a rich, fulfilling life that extends beyond day-to-day survival. Their lived experience and unique perspective can inform service delivery and impact organizational culture. Consumers working in service settings as providers can help create systems that are responsive and sensitive to the needs of those receiving services. Through their work, consumers gain a greater sense of self-worth, well being, autonomy, increased self-knowledge, and improved communication skills (Mowbray, Moxley, and Collins, 1998).

There are challenges to consumer integration, which can include stigma and discrimination, boundary issues, stress, burnout, and financial and scheduling concerns. (Consumer Practitioners in PATH-funded Programs, 2006). Ethical concerns like confidentiality and setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries can be complex challenges when people work as staff or volunteers at the same agency from which they concurrently receive services. Some successful strategies employed by PATH programs to address these challenges include: creating consumer-designated positions; involving people with experiences of homelessness in governance; allowing flexible scheduling; and participating in trainings to support an agency-wide recovery-orientation (Portraits of Commitment, 2008).
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