Anthony’s Words

Anthony’s six words are:
Faith, trust, understanding, strength, patience, love
By learning to have these six words for myself, I have learned to apply them towards others. Loving myself has increased my faith and trust in God and I have more of an understanding of him and my purpose. This class has taught me to be strong and patient with others so I can have love for them, true love that is unconditional.

Identifying Triggers is a Must

The following is a letter from a student in our It’s T.I.M.E. class:

First of all, I would like to take time out to thank the It’s T.I.M.E. program for putting me back on the right track again. Being in this class has taught me how to deal with society and myself. It’s been a trying situation for me and my family. First it has been important to address the need of my medications and the need of gaining my self-respect back. This class has taught me how to make my own decisions and identify with my true feelings.

Here are the six words I chose to identify with myself:
Identifying my triggers is a must.
I say this because most of my life has been motivated by the way I feel and react toward my feelings. I must admit, my distorted thinking process has ruled over me for at least eight years. People, places and things have been my downfall. I never had the problem solving skills or socialization skills, so I pretty much stayed to myself and isolated a lot. Most of my anger has come from my childhood days. My mother and father and grand-parents were functional alcoholics and partied every weekend and holidays. By my own choices I chose to pick up drugs, (crack-cocaine) and have been battling with it for the last eight years, after the death of my mother. I took that experience so hard and lost contact with reality.

.And here I am again, sitting behind prison walls, as well as being a prisoner in my own mind. By being in this class for a second time I have gained some tools to help fix some problem areas in my life. I would like to thank the it’s T.I.M.E. team again for the support and time that they have given me. I will truly stay in touch, to keep my sobriety on the right path, and to stay on top of my mental health issues.

I Love Being in the Woods

A student, Ryan, of our 18th session of the It’s T.I.M.E. class, shared a memory on graduation day. Students are asked on the last day to describe what they learned, discuss a goal or tell a story using six words. Here are Ryan’s six words and the thoughts that followed:


As a kid growing up in the suburbs, every summer my friend and I went to the woods. We would ride our bikes on the picnic benches and hit the jumps there first for our warm up. Then it was off to the bigger of jumps we made further back in the woods. After a while, we would ride our bikes out of the woods and stop at Burger King and grab a bite to eat and something to drink, and then back to the woods we would go. This time though, my friend and I would bike to the other side of the woods to the rope swing and Train Trestle, swing off the rope swing, or float down stream and try to walk back up the river against the current, to see who could do it. If you couldn’t you’d swim over to the embankment, get out of the river, and walk back to the rope swing. My friends and I did this all summer long day in and out, only going home to have dinner, watch our nightly cartoons, and off to bed so we could wake up to this all over again. Today I’m 30 years old and I still go to these woods, because it is quiet, peaceful, and just a wonderful place to be with all the sounds from birds, the river, and wind blowing through the trees. So if you really are my friend then you’ll know where I’ll be, that’s in these woods listening and watching all these things take place around me.

Ryan has participated in the class, and also had some kind words to share:

Great class and the volunteers that teach us really listen to our questions or answers. I think the students of the class should read more than the teachers because when we read out loud, we have a better understanding of what we read. Keep up the good work and never stop helping and teaching us because you are needed, wanted, and appreciated.

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Advocacy Coalition to monitor closing of NSH civil units

Coalition for the Responsible Closure of

The Norristown State Hospital Civil Unit

February 27, 2017

Letter to:  Ted Dallas, Secretary of Human Services and Dennis Marion, Deputy Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Dear Secretary Dallas and Deputy Secretary Marion:

As members of the Coalition for the Responsible Closure of the Norristown State Hospital (NSH) Civil Unit, we are writing to request a meeting to discuss the process that will be used to close the Civil Unit.

Our coalition—comprising representatives of mental health advocacy groups across the commonwealth—applauds efforts to support more individuals in the community, and we are generally supportive of the closure.

However, we have concerns about the processes that will be put in place to support the individuals currently residing at NSH. These concerns were echoed by nearly everyone testifying regarding the closure at NSH on January 31st.

In particular, we believe that:

  •  The state must view this as a closure and not simply a larger-scale Community Hospital Integration Projects Program (CHIPP) effort. Substantial resources will need to be invested in the community to support this transition.
  •  The state must ensure that all individuals leaving the NSH Civil Unit are discharged into the community, with the services and supports to ensure a successful transition. There must be no transfers to other state hospitals or to South Mountain Restoration Center.
  • Because the future of continued CHIPP funding is currently uncertain, the state must annualize CHIPP funding that is not subject to block granting or included in base funding.
  • Every person must have a fully operational and thoroughly vetted individual plan modeled after the Community Support Plan process used in past state hospital closings.
  • This initiative must be funded with no artificial cap and must also include dollars to repair and support our community-based service system, which is currently underfunded and operating with limited capacity.
  • The monies made available by the closing of the NSH Civil Unit, and any additional funds allocated to successfully accomplish the closing, must follow the discharged individuals into the community, and be indicated in the budget as an uncuttable line item.
  • The closure should be coordinated with the forensic litigation and the courts related to individuals with current charges residing in the NSH Civil Unit.
  • The state must invest in a team of mobile advocates who can work to protect the rights of individuals transitioning to the community, to ensure that their voices are heard and their choices are respected in service planning and that the settings they move to are of a high quality and free of abuse or exploitation.

Our coalition members have a wealth of experience with past state hospital closures, and would welcome the opportunity to contribute to making sure that this initiative is successful. If the state and the advocacy groups work collaboratively, we can ensure that the individuals in the discharge and diversion groups—that is, everyone affected by the closing—do not fall through the cracks, and that they go on to enjoy successful lives in the community.

We request an initial meeting as soon as possible between Secretary Dallas, Deputy Secretary Marion, and representatives of our coalition to plan for the closure. We also request that the state convene a stakeholders group shortly thereafter.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to a response at your earliest convenience. Please contact Joseph Rogers, National Policy and Advocacy Consultant of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania at jrogers@mhasp.org or 267.507.3844.


 Community Advocates of Montgomery County (Kathie Mitchell, Director)

 Disability Rights Pennsylvania (Peri Jude Radecic, CEO)

 NAMI of Pennsylvania Montgomery County (Abby Grasso, M.S.W., Executive Director)

 NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania (Christine Michaels, Executive Director)

 Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania (Sue Walther, Executive Director)

 Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (Michael Brody, President and CEO; Joseph Rogers, National Policy and Advocacy Consultant; Alyssa Schatz, M.S.W., Vice President of Advocacy)

 Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association (Lynn Keltz, Executive Director)


 Bucks County Department of Mental Health/Developmental Programs (Donna Duffy-Bell, Administrator)

 Bureau of Community and Hospital Operations (Phil Mader, Director)

 Chester County Department of Mental Health/Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities (Gary F. Entrekin, Administrator)

 Delaware County Office of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities (Jonna L. DiStefano, Administrator)

 Montgomery County Department of Behavioral Health/Developmental Disabilities (Pam Howard, Administrator)

 Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (David T. Jones, Acting Commissioner)

 Southeast Regional Mental Health Services Coordination Office (Tory Bright, Southeast Regional Mental Health Services Coordinator)

 Aidan Altenor

 Robbie Altenor


Scent of a boxwood puts politics at bay

By: Kathie Mitchell

As I jogged around my neighborhood this morning, a subtle but familiar scent floated by. It was the scent of boxwood, a fragrant evergreen shrub that triggers pleasant memories from my childhood every time I happen to smell it.


Ironically, I had recently been trying to remember the name of this bush as I described it to our justice and recovery class at the county jail as a trigger of a positive memory. Until I passed by the yard this morning, I had not recalled the name. Suddenly as I inhaled deeply, “boxwood” promptly appeared in my mind.  The recall shows just how powerful a “person, place or thing” can be. The taste of a certain food, a smell of a flower, the words of a song – they can all invoke powerful feelings and memories. What we do with those feelings is important. During the class, we talk about identifying triggers that can cause thoughts or behaviors that may get us into trouble. Sometimes, however, a trigger can result in a positive experience.


As I continued my jog listening to the early morning tweets from numerous birds and looking up at the clouds and blue sky, I made a mental note to tell the students at class tomorrow that my trigger was boxwoods. I wanted to tell them how it changed my state of my mind for much of the day.  For at that instant when my olfactory senses made the connection, my mind was running through the day – what happened earlier in the morning, what will happen later, what I have to do that night. At this particular moment, I was mentally reviewing some other morning tweets about the Republicans’ proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the effect on Medicaid…some rather troubling thoughts.


As quickly as the fragrance hit me, it was gone. But so were the negative ruminations! I became intensely aware of everything around me. The cool spring-like air was invigorating.  A gentle breeze swayed the bare branches of large trees as I gazed upward at the blue sky, puffs of clouds meandering through and above the waving limbs. The color of scarlet became cardinals; black and white bobbing specks on a bird feeder transformed into finches. I became aware of the absence of car noise and other sounds of human awakenings.


I became mindful. I slowed to a walk. I wanted to be totally in the present, purposefully inhaling and exhaling slowly and taking an inventory of my blessings in the moment. The practice of mindfulness is another approach we have introduced to our class that helps promote calmness and an ability to focus in our students.  I thought about the boxwood bushes that used to grace the front lawn of my late grandmother’s home. I remembered her smiling face and the happiness she exuded every time I visited. She was a shining light in my life and a beacon of hope, safety and love.


Thanks to the scent of a boxwood, hours after my running shoes were put away, that light in my life is still shining.



Celebration of Life

JB – Friend, colleague, mentor, family

By: Kathie Mitchell, Director of Community Advocates


It’s hard for me to believe he’s gone. Each morning for the past two weeks, I expect to see a text message or email from him on my phone. JB was an early riser, and he liked getting to the office early in the morning before anyone else got there and it was still quiet. At the office, he had a presence. I still look up from my desk and expect to see him standing quietly and patiently in the doorway, waiting to update me on the outcome of a class, the result of some research he did, an injustice that needed to be addressed.


JB was passionate about the work he did at the county correctional facility. He told a colleague recently that this was the work he was meant to do. He loved teaching the re-entry class but always humbly reminded everyone that the class was about the students, not him. I attended the most recent graduation on May 12th where 13 men received their Certificates for completing the class. It was the 16th time we held the 14-week class which ran consecutively for the last 5 ½ years. JB was always proud of the students and took the time to know each and every one. In this last class we had introduced “Storytelling” where individuals learned a simple technique to help them focus on telling a concise, strengths-based story about themselves (or elevator speech as it’s sometimes called) to prepare for a court hearing, to talk with a probation officer, or interview for a job. At graduation, each of the men were given a few minutes to tell their story. You could feel the emotion in the room as each man bared a little of his soul, a past discretion and then a hope and sometimes a prayer, that they were going to start a new life in the community.  One gentleman in particular, pointed to JB and said, “I know that if you can do it, I can, too.” Leading by example, JB shared his story over the course of the class and truly made the connections and gained the trust of so many who felt hopeless, had made mistakes, followed the wrong path, had no one to give them a hand up, or who had forgotten how to trust.


JB knew we appreciated him because we told him often since he was prone to blaming himself or being his own worst critic. He was always polite, dignified, interested, hardworking and caring. Above all, he had a great respect for people and in turn, was greatly respected by those who knew him. I am so happy that he received an award for his work from NAMI Montgomery County just a week before he died. It was an honor to be there with him and to see him recognized for the work he achieved. He was really at the top of his game.


The next day on my desk, he left me a beautiful card with a painting of an Oak Tree by Jerry Garcia on the cover. It was filled with gratitude about the support he received at Hopeworx and as he put it “allowing me to be me.” Being him was what made the job so successful. In the card, his sentiments were also filled with hope, ironically, for the future. At the end of the card he thanked me for being “such an integral part of my journey to reaching just the beginning of bigger and better things to come from the advocacy team that I’ve come to love so dearly.”


He was part of our family at Hopeworx and I sent him a thank you text that read, “It’s been a privilege working with you and the rest of the team. We are a family! With much gratitude, Namaste.”



Letter from an “IT’s T.I.M.E.” class participant

To whom it may concern:

I’m currently at MCCF and I’m writing this in memory of a dear friend, Mr. JB Brooks. He was a person that when you meet him, you’re like “Is this man for real?” and when you sit down with him, you feel the realness in his heart. He always told you the truth. If he said something, it usually happened the way he explained it to you and as a man, you had to respect that. In a short amount of time, I grew to love JB for who he was, and I wish his family my deepest condolences because a great man has passed.

In closing I want to write this in honor of a great man, it’s called “Following Peace: I understood to be at Peace with Christ, as we follow Jesus, He gives Peace that transcends understanding, and radiates from within though we may not even be aware of it.” And that is what Mr. Brooks meant to me.

Thank you.

Storying Telling

Jomel Silverio
As I helped JB and Kathie facilitate the It’s T.I.M.E Class briefly, during last week’s graduation, I introduced the story telling portion with my own background. I chose to write my story as if it were directed toward my employer, however, the classmates were able to interpret my story with their own, discussing how different portions of the class had helped them change the way they perceived and handled different situations in their lives.
Below is my own story:
I am employed now, and I wanted to share some of my inner goals with you, to show you that I have grown and continue to grow. First, I have qualities that I believe you may find necessary and appealing for the work environment. I can speak Spanish just as naturally as English, with the same virtues and values that I hold close to myself. These virtues include patience, eagerness, thoroughness, ambition, and attention to detail.
When asked a question I am able to assess the situation, and identify if I can aid the situation or if I need assistance. That kind of worth ethic makes a team player. I am also more focused on my personal goals, and professional goals, and more specifically I look to blend the both to have a balanced quality of life.
I am further along, then where I was in my early 20’s. Now I’m reaching 28, which is closer to 30 and I reflect back thinking, this is possible but how? That question I satisfy to answer, that I am here because of the support of family and friends, and even people I never met who had an optimistic outlook, and shared that positive energy and thinking with me. Even recently when I was in attendance of the Distorted Thinking module of the it’s T.I.M.E. class, I arrived at the realization that there are ways of thinking that challenge one’s own, for the better.
I have encountered different doctrines in my life through my experience at work, such as something new that has been introduced to me, called the Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga. Taking a moment to acknowledge the feeling of meditation helps me center myself when I feel my emotions need a personal therapy session.
Taking in the time to pause all the things that surround you is a powerful self-help tool and can be taught to others, and helps me work and live with more peace in my life. I’d like to thank you for consideration and for listening to my story, and I hope that my story can instill positivity.

Peer Advocacy pushing the recovery “revolution” in Montgomery County

*Speech made by Eric Goldstein at Community Advocates Open House

Jefferson said in helping to found our country that we needed to have a revolution every once in a while as a way to keep the principles of who we are honest. I have worked in Behavioral Health for 43 years and feel Mental Health, later Behavioral Health, some day, something else needs a revolution on a regular basis. When I started it was psycho dynamics, then it was the Medical Model, and later Recovery with its strong peer aspect.

Now a good revolution does not throw away. It is a dialectic process and builds on the good stuff so to speak. So here we are with Peer and Recovery. Going backwards, Jefferson would say, is not the right direction but carry forward to the next spot is where we are at and my sense is it is time for another revolution.

Unfortunately, we are in a dicey place. Many people are trying to push us backwards. Back to the days of “lock him up”. Many say science is most important. Others believe those with mental health are the ones causing violence throughout the nation. In the future, I hope I have more time to talk about what we need. The next step is not reactionary backwards. No, the next is normal inclusion. Not fighting but overwhelming the country with integrative inclusion and the biggest step of all is to obliterate stigma.

We, the behavioral health community, need to help the world stop their suffering because they hide in the closet of their mental health. This community and its strong allies in Montgomery County and throughout the nation need to be the leaders of this revolution for more than us but for the whole world. This time it is for us to show the world because the whole world is watching.

Right here at HopeWorx we have several examples of modern day advocacy at work. I would like to highlight the Montgomery County Advocates who for almost a decade, sometimes without recognition, have been daily battling for the rights of the consumer. Using a powerful peer approach with some good old fashioned 1960’s organizing and a modern day use of data, the team works with the community. A few years ago, with people like Tory Bright and Nancy Wieman as encouraging members of the team, set their sights on the prisons. Peer advocacy in the county jails has been tried before but in my years few advocacy teams have really worked as well as wished. HopeWorx Community Advocates are successful because they know when to use the peer and when the advocacy. I tell you as a 40 year professional they are remarkable. One cannot ignore the leadership and the members of the team. So they have not shrunk. Instead, their work has grown.

Interesting that the President and Congress have agreed on so little except the overcrowding of the prisons and the need to stop is one thing they do agree on. But the battle will be over the best way to shrink the population. Right here in Montgomery County is a team that could actually show millions how to do it and we wish and hope for all your support. Regardless, we love the work so we will go on. Just keep in mind the money will start to come in the form of grants soon and we should all be prepared.