Thursday, December 15, 2016

MH ADVOCATING IN SOUTH FLORIDA: Part 1

Me and Cassy years ago


When Patty and I moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fl in July, 1991, she was going back to where she had lived as a child and I was starting a brand new chapter in my life.  I was not only in a new place, but I was trying to do something I had very little experience at.  Patty had been an advocate for years, but I had only put my big toe in the water in 1988.  Now I was going to try putting my entire foot in.

I had started Christian Friends of the Mentally Ill in 1988.  Patty and I with others incorporated Novastar Opportunities for the Mentally Ill, Inc in 1989 in North Carolina.  We moved the nonprofit to Florida when we moved.  A good friend of mine, Bill Bowden, advised me not to use Christian Friends in South Florida.  He said I would antagonize the Jewish community.  I took his advice and came up with Project Dream Again.  The name change however did not help me with my public relations problems.  I could have kept CFMI and I would have fared as well.

The first big blow up came at a meeting of the Alcohol Drug Abuse and Mental Health Planning Council meeting.  They were holding a hearing about closing South Florida State Hospital.  My comments at that hearing caused some mental health health consumers to threaten physical violence against me.  Community providers could not believe their ears.

What had I said?  I said that South Florida State Hospital should stay open because all the folks down there had not said they wanted to leave.  That it could be turned into a campus for us.  That people should get to decide for themselves.  That if the state had already taken years of your life you should get to decide how to spend the rest of it.  You see I actually believe in person centered approaches even to the extent of keeping a hospital open for people who want it.  I do not believe that advocates can speak for individual people.  Only the individual can speak for the individual.

to be continued….

© Ed Cooper, December 15, 2016, Stoney Creek, TN
   All rights reserved

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