Monthly Archives: June 2014

CSP Meeting at MCES

Montgomery County Emergency Services was the host for a CSP picnic and meeting. Kudos to Dr. Rocio Nell, Bill Myers, Gabe Nathan, Dawn Yavaz, and a host of others for putting together a fabulous afternoon!

Our meeting began as usual, with members breaking into their respective committees –Social or Advocacy. It was hard to concentrate with the aroma of hamburgers and hotdogs whipping through the air! Lunch was magnificent, including sodas, waters, salads, fruit and the like. The catering company was able to grill, set-up and serve the masses. They did a wonderful job.

While everyone finished their lunch, CSP business continued. It started to drizzle at the end of this event, but for the most part, it was a perfect day! The tent shelter served as a protection from the sun and the rain. My vote is for MCES to host this event – every year!!!

The Montgomery County CSP Conference was a Blast!!!

This year’s celebration of unity of purpose for those of us that suffer with mental health issues was spectacular from beginning to end! Mermaid Lake catered a beautiful continental breakfast with fruit, pastries, coffee, tea and juices. We started with an art project making baseball caps decorated with team colors in preparation for a scavenger hunt with the 1st place team getting tee shirts! Team yellow won! Breakout groups were next, including a Plant group with Starting Point, Arts and Crafts with Mae Harden, Yoga with Julie Fracchia, Mindful Meditation with Kathie & Gale, Tai Chi with Mitch Goldfarb, and the Trail Guides ran a computer lab. Individuals were also treated to Back Health and Massage with Dr. Mark Legnola!!!!

Lunch was a fabulous barbeque, which included hotdogs, hamburgers, chicken, various salads, corn on the cob, and ice cream for dessert. Soda, juice, and ice tea were flowing from a fountain while water was also available!

Our key note speaker was Representative Tom Murt. His explanation of what our state representatives responsibilities are were very informative, and helped us learn what to look for when deciding on what candidate to support! Last, we had a talent show MC’ed by Ron, and DJ’ed by Brian and Ameika!  Rochelle Brown won 1st place for her spoken word! Everyone participated with a dance to the song “Happy”! Happy we were with the day’s festivities!

Special thanks to Tuesday Lyles, Penny Johnson, Ron, Ameika Malcolm, and Sue Shannon for the planning and implementation of this conference! Your hard work and dedication-even under pressure, made this day enjoyable for us all!

Mental Illnesses and Disorders: Clinical Depression

Clinical Depression, also known as Major Depression is defined as a constant sense of hopelessness and despair. Those who have major depression may find it difficult to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy friends and activities. Some people have clinical depression only once in their lives, while others have it constantly or periodically. Peoples’ symptoms can also be situational, or from a chemical imbalance. Other factors that increase the risk of clinical depression are stress at home or at work, balancing family life with career, the caring for or death of an aging parent. It has been found that raising children as a single parent increases one’s risk for depression.

Symptoms of this disorder may include- fatigue, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day, impaired concentration and indecisiveness as well as insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping). Marked diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities, restlessness or feeling slowed down, recurring thoughts of death or suicide, and significant weight loss or weight gain are other symptoms of depression. Outward signs of major depression may include irritability, anger, drug and alcohol abuse (substance abuse can also be the cause of depression rather than the result of it). Repressing feelings can result in violent behavior directed both inwardly and outwardly. It can also result in an increase in illness, suicide, and homicide.

If you recognize any of these symptoms are operating in your life persistently, help is available. Central Montgomery MH/MR Center is a starting point in Montgomery County. If you are currently in crisis, Montgomery County Emergency Services (MCES) located in building 50 on the State Hospital grounds on Sterigere Street is open 24 hours to evaluate and treat in crisis situations. Access Mobile Services can also be contacted. Remember, there is no shame in being sick.  We do not have to suffer!

2014 CSP Poster Art Contest

CSP held its Annual Poster Art Contest at the Montgomery County Library.  All of the submissions were amazing and hard to choose from.  But we did pick three. The top prize went to Melanie Hewlett with her drawing of “Walk beside me: The Journey of Peer Support”.  Second place went to Sue Warner with her drawing of “Peer Support Help us See and Believe”.  Third place went Michelle Romano with her drawing “We All Need a Helping Hand”. Honorable Mention went to John Fortune with his drawing.  We would like to thank all who entered.  All artwork will be displayed at the 2014 Mental Health Reception on May 21st. A refrigerator magnet poster will be created from the winning entry to be given out at the Reception.

Hearing Voices Training Led By Ron Coleman

On February 19th, 20 and 21st, some of the Hopeworks employees attended a Hearing Voices Training conducted by Ron Coleman.  Ron Coleman is form Scotland and he is a leader of the global Hearing Voices Movement.  The training was attended by voice hearers as well as people who were family members of voice hearers and people whose profession it was to care for the mentally ill.

            On the first day of the training, an introduction to what it means to hear voices was conducted.  It was discussed that most people hear voices at least once in their life, such as hearing their name called or random background noise.  It was discussed that voices can be positive or negative or neutral.  Then the training progressed by talking about famous people who have heard voices throughout time.  Socrates the great philosopher admitted to hearing voices.  Other famous people include Joan of Arc, Sigmund Freud, and the actor Anthony Hopkins.  Ancient civilizations believed they saw visions and voices which guided their steps, and this was considered a positive thing.  It is only recently that hearing voices has received a negative stigma.

            On the second day of the training the voice hearers did a voice profile of their voices.  This involved identifying the different voices the voice hearer was hearing, along with documenting their ages, their sex, and whether the voice was positive or negative.  This helped the voice hearer attempt to better understand their voices.  Having explored these different aspect of the voices, the voice hearer is better able to discern the message the voices have for them.  Many voice hearers expressed that this process was productive and positive.

            On the third day of the group, the voice hearers paired up with a non-voice hearer and told them their experiences, and how a person in such a stressful situation would like to be treated.  The non-voice hearers were called the students and the voice hearers were the teachers.  The day ended with a wonderful discussion on lessons learned.

Don’t sacrifice people to save money. Prevent ANY CUTS to Mental Health Services in PA

By: Kathie Mitchell, Director of Community Advocates

PA is facing a $1.5 billion deficit and there is a major battle over the budget going on in Harrisburg. Don’t let the governor or the legislators sacrifice people to save money. There are other ways to fund the budget besides cutting mental services and education.

House Bill 2328 – the General Appropriations Bill – was passed yesterday by the PA House. In addition to education cuts, it cuts a planned expansion of community based services for people with disabilities and it eliminates the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities program (MAWD) used by many people in recovery from mental illness who are back in the work force and contributing taxpayers in our communities.

           The bill does not include any tax on natural gas drilling, allowing drillers to continue to avoid paying their fair share for schools and vital services.

Now the state Senate begins considering the House’s budget.  Call your senators today and ask them where they stand on taxing gas drillers to prevent cuts to vital programs and services. You can tell your senators any one of the following statements that apply to you:

  • Don’t eliminate MAWD. If you do, I will not have medications and therapies that enable me to be a productive, empowered worker in our community.
  • Cutting mental health services means cutting 13 percent of all jobs in southeastern PA – why would you do that?
  • Weekly therapy helps me manage my mental health and keeps me out of the hospital.
  • Careers centers help me find a job.
  • My peer support specialist connected me with the POWER Program at the Montgomery County Community College and I am enrolled in the Human Services program.
  • You want my child to wait for mental health services rather than tax Marcellus Shale?

Tell your senators that mental health matters. We had 10 percent cuts in the budget two years ago and we can’t take any more. We need more money – not less – to expand the quality programs and recovery oriented best practices that make a difference in the lives of people with mental illness.

*Contributions from the Mental Health Association in Southeastern PA and the PA Budget and Policy Center.


By Kathie Mitchell, Director of Community Advocates

 What happened to people first? What is our world coming to when we would rather take care of potholes and bridges than our mothers, fathers, children, sisters and brothers, friends and neighbors?

 Today, the Senate Finance Committee in Washington D.C. will consider legislation to address a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund that will contain an amendment to partially pay for the highway repairs by cutting the benefits for people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Unemployment Insurance (UI) concurrently.

 Action is needed NOW to oppose this new SSDI/UI benefit cut proposal!  Contact our U.S. Senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, who are members of the Senate Finance Committee, at 202-224-3121, and tell them you oppose the cuts because:

  • The cuts would erode the financial security of people with significant disabilities and their families;
  • SSDI beneficiaries who try to work should not be treated differently from other American workers. Unemployment insurance should be there for them in their time of need; and
  • Cuts to SSDI for beneficiaries who also receive UI because they have attempted to work – as encouraged by law – would reduce economic opportunities and could create harmful work disincentives.

 There must be other ways to fund the highways than by stripping benefits from the most vulnerable citizens in our society.



*Information from the Disability Rights Network of PA and the PA Mental Health Consumers’ Association.


My Email to Senator Casey about the prescription plan for Medicare holders and his response.

By Ellen Kozlowski

I emailed Senator Casey regarding CMS’s decision to take antidepressants and antipsychotics off the protected classes list for Medicare Part D, the prescription plan for Medicare holders.  If CMS did this it would mean people with a Medicare Part D plan would not be able to get antidepressants with their plan starting in 2015 and antipsychotics starting in 2016.  I thought the government had more sense than this, to just deny and essential part of many people’s lives to keep them out of the hospital and from horrible debilitating states and they want to take the very medicine, the very backbone of so many peoples recovery, away from them?  From millions of people?

 I’m very glad Senator Casey and other lawmakers responded as they did. I’m still not sure of the final answer as stated below but Community Advocates plan on following this and when we hear anything else on this matter we’ll let you know!

———-Original Message———-

From: “Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.”
Date: Apr 7, 2014 7:01:13 PM
Subject: Response from Senator Casey

Dear Ms. Kozlowski:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding Medicare Part D changes to the protected class policy. I appreciate hearing from you about this issue. Approximately 36 million Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare Part D in 2013. Medicare Part D is made up of more than 1,000 private prescription drug plans. Each region has at least 29 options for Part D plans. Each of these plans has its own drug formularies to determine which prescription drugs it will cover.

 In the 2015 Medicare Advantage and Part D Proposed Rule that was published on January 10, 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed changes to the Part D protected classes policy.  CMS currently has six protected classes of prescription medication. This status requires Part D plans to provide all formularies of medication available in each class.  The proposed CMS changes would remove antidepressants and immunosuppressants from the list of protected classes in 2015 and remove antipsychotic drugs in 2016.  During the comment period for this rule CMS heard from many individuals who had concerns with the proposed rule.  I also heard from many Pennsylvanians about their concerns on how this rule could affect Part D beneficiaries.  

On February 5, 2014, I joined all of my colleagues on the Senate Committee on Finance in sending a letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner expressing our concern over the proposed changes.  We were concerned that this change could decrease access to these medications for beneficiaries.  On March 10, 2014, CMS announced that it was not finalizing this part of the rule, and I was pleased they expressed a willingness to work with stakeholders as they try to advance these changes. Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.  

For more information on this or other issues, I encourage you to visit my website, I hope you will find this online office a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.


Bob Casey

United States Senator


P.S. If you would like to respond to this message, please use the contact form on my website:

Advocates converge at Regional CSP Retreat

By: Kathie Mitchell

NORRISTOWN – Over 60 individuals from across the Philadelphia region attended a retreat in May at the Norristown State Hospital to learn how to advocate for effective, self-driven, recovery oriented mental health services through legislative, forensic, recovery and veterans initiatives. The theme of the retreat, “The Role of the Consumer Advocate in Today’s Mental Health System,” resonated with attendees as well as speakers and presenters. The keynote speaker, Dr. Larry Real, Medical Director of Horizon House, Inc. in Philadelphia, spoke about the importance of the consumer voice in all aspects of mental health treatment. His cartoons and self-deprecating manner was the antithesis of what many consumers experience when face-to-face with their psychiatrist. “The psychiatrist was excellent,” said J.B. Brooks, a forensic advocate with Community Advocates of Montgomery County. “I really liked him. To him, the cure for everything isn’t a sedative – medication management isn’t necessarily the cure.” Brooks added that Real, who also serves as Co-Director of the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Public Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, had a sense of humor and talked about things that were relevant to a person in recovery.

 Also present at the retreat was Dennis Marion, Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS).  In his opening remarks, Marion deviated from his standard powerpoint presentation to speak about the importance of the consumer voice and its advocacy role in all levels of the system. Calling himself a bureaucrat whose primary role in OMHSAS is budgets and administration, he said it was the voices of the consumers and families that educated him and broaden his perspective on what’s really needed to maintain and improve mental health services in the state.   Other workshops included: Take 5 Advocacy by Jake Bowling and Adam Nester of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania; Veterans Update by Lori Breen and Rhonda Dennis of the Veterans Empowerment Center; Hearing Voices Network by Eric Larson of Resources for Human Development, and Advocating for Yourself with the Doctor by June Sams, a retired nurse and certified peer specialist. “I liked the Take 5 group,” said Tuesday Lyles of HopeWorx Inc. “They were very informative about legislative advocacy.”  Lyles said she was particularly impressed by the historic photos that were shared of the original advocates demonstrating and protesting the violations of human rights and dignity of persons with mental illness.

A Forensic Panel was held in the afternoon to discuss various programs in the region which provide treatment, support and diversion of individuals with mental health and justice related issues. Panelists included: Tory Bright, SE Regional Mental Health Services Coordinator; J.B. Brooks, forensic advocate at Community Advocates/HopeWorx; Deborah Strouse, team leader for the Penn Foundation’s Forensic Assertive Community Treatment Team; Richard J. Richter Jr., a forensic peer support specialist in Delaware County, and Michael Little, Coordinator of Forensic Peer Support in Philadelphia. Longtime CSP member William Holt of Horizon House, was the moderator for the Forensic Panel. “The Forensic Panel was excellent,” said Ameika Malcolm of HopeWorx.

“That was the highlight of my day. I didn’t know there was so much going on.” The SE CSP Retreat was planned by the Retreat Subcommittee. Lisa Gardiner, June Sams and Jeff Shair had key roles in planning the retreat. Hedwig House catered the event. “The retreat was very organized,” said Penny Johnson, the new Technical Assistant for the SE CSP Committee. “The committee that worked on it did a good job.”

Hopeworx Member of the Month for May

May’s Hopeworx member of the month is Johan Martinez

Johan was born in the Dominican Republic. He came to the United States when he was 3 years old. Johan was raised in Passaic New Jersey, and graduated from Passaic High School in 2001. Next, Johan attended Florida State University, where he graduated with a degree in Computer Science in 2005. He is the oldest of his siblings with 1 sister, and 1 brother! We agree that being the oldest isn’t all that it is made out to be.

Johan has been with HopeWorx Inc. since 2010. Along with his surveying responsibilities as part of CST, he contributes his many other skills as part of the HopeWorx team. Johan coordinates rides for staff and HopeMarket volunteers. He updates our website, checks for virus protection, basically he is our IT go to person. Johan has been HopeWorx liaison for the Equal Dollar program, which is coordinated with RHD. Last, he is a constant listening ear, when we need someone to bounce off an idea or problem.

Johan’s hope for the future is to be employed full time in the Computer Science field. Currently, he is helping HopeWorx websites come into the 21st century.