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“As far back as I can remember I always believed there was something wrong with me. I come from a large family of 12; we were children who were to be seen and not heard. Raised by my mother and my grandparents in the home; I was, nevertheless, instilled with morals, principles, values and standards to live by. Then between the ages of 13 and 16, I suffered devastating abandonment and loss. First, my father abandoned the family and then my sister died–she was my best friend and I blamed myself for over 20 years for her death. At 19, I met and embraced alcohol and drink for 21 yrs along with other drugs which I used; not to feel the feelings from the thoughts going on inside my head. “I wasn’t going to get on my knees” so I stole from department stores.
“I was arrested 10 times for petty theft and failed 12 drug recovery programs…or should I say they failed me. In 1996 I was arrested to find the laws had changed to a felony with petty theft with a prior; this held a (3yr) prison term. I accepted a deal of 3 yrs probation and 3 yr joint suspension. Arrested again, I was sentenced to 90 day in jail (They initially missed the 3yr joint suspension and once they discovered it, added a sentence enhancement).
“By July of 1998, I was facing 4 ½ years in state prison; by God’s grace and mercy I was sentenced to 1 yr in a behavior modification program where I broke all rules, regulations, guidelines and procedures as these programs didn’t want to work with me, but work on me, leaving me with little self-respect except, to rebel. I begged them for mental health service. I was isolated from the treatment house and was told I didn’t fit the criteria for mental health services. Unable to adapt and constantly asking and needing Mental Health Services I WAS DENIED…“I walked out!”
“Afraid of going to prison, I jumped into another program. I went for a physical and the Dr. walked in asking; how I was doing? I broke down and was clinically referred to Augustus F. Hawkins Mental Health Center (This program had no choice but to allow me to go) On November 2, 1999, I met an angel, Dr. Lorraine Allman; after 2 ½ hours she diagnosed me with Major Depression, PTSD, Suicidal Ideation and Polly-substance. When I returned to the drug program, His Sheltering Arms, I was told to pack my bags because, of all things, I kept my mental health appointment! I know that HOPE is the application of humanness where there is hopelessness!
“I was fortunate to receive Cognitive behavioral therapy & New Possibilities Group facilitated by Dr. Allman~~being listened to and treated with dignity and respect and knowing and being educated about my diagnosis was the beginning of changing my life. I was introduced to depression, stress, anxiety, mindfulness practices, relaxation and much, much more, including client-run self-help programs.… My life became worth living!
“I envision a community center (Multi-Purpose) (Compassion Center) Titled: “New Possibilities” which provides services that promotes empowerment, education and advocacy beginning with Emotional (eCPR) Training, which supports a person in distress to feel that they have a meaningful and valued place in the community— they are less likely to “get loaded, commit crime or go to jail.” We can experience our own power to recover through the hope of a revitalized life! eCPR, which was developed by the client-run National Empowerment Center, is designed to help build stronger and resilient communities.We need; Case Management, Anger Management, Leadership Development, Substance Abuse, Mental Health 101, Grief/ Loss Group, parenting, (Child Care Center), soft music, Mindfulness practices, Spirituality Group, Artistic Outlet, GED prep and Higher Education – vocational Training “ongoing habilitation Training”, Employment and housing~~without affordable and dignified housing even the best treatment will not work if you are living out on the street. Specializing in Diversion Services with a Resource Center which provides referrals to community connections and specializing intervention programs etc. Those like me with “Lived Experience” Community experts, Consumer Run/ Consumer Driven.
“Most importantly; we deserve a warm, safe, consumer friendly and welcoming staff: Including staff whom have been there and done that—that is, staff who are or have been mental health consumers, embracing people as staff who have a dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance abuse…and at a living and dignified wage—our lived experience and expertise shouldn’t come cheap! There should be nothing about us without us, for we can and do speak for ourselves.
“We need a center with a mission to assist all individuals in building a solid foundation to stand on through wellness and becoming a whole person.
“Remember, we are all unique human beings; one size doesn’t fit all!”
(the preceeding is the transcription of a speech delivered by Reba Stevens at a Legislative Breakfast, Friday December 12th, 2014)
Reba Stevens is a peer advocate with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH).