“The Role of Self Identified Employees at the South Carolina Department of Mental Health: State Office of Client Affairs, Client-to-Client Evaluation and Training Team, Client Affairs Coordinators and Certified Peer Support Specialist”
Mission: "The mission of the Office of Client Affairs is to support the SCDMH Recovery Initiative through steering, continually developing and supporting client leaders for persons served thru the South Carolina Department of Mental Health".
State Office of Client Affairs
In South Carolina, the client affairs initiative was established in 1990 and the Department of Mental Health established a State Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) in 1994. The program began as an empowerment initiative to bring current or former users of mental health services to the management tables of mental health systems as planners, policy-makers, program evaluators, community educators, and service providers. Today, the Office of Client Affairs continues to develop, steer and support client leaders for persons served thru the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. Core elements of a successful Office of Client Affairs include:
- Establishment, planning and hiring must be supported by and involve consumers/survivors
- Must be directed by a self-identified consumer/survivor
- Must be part of senior management team
- An adequate support system must be in place and ongoing
- Must serve as a systems change agent
- Does not relieve other senior management staff from interacting with consumers/survivors
National Association of Consumer/Survivor Mental Health Administrators (NAC/SMHA)
The role of the OCA Director is to:
- Steer and support the development of client leaders and leadership for persons
served thru the South Carolina Department of Mental Health
- Expand and guide client involvement in evaluation, training and performance improvement activities
- Design and implement the expansion the Peer Support Service
- Create evidenced-based research around the peer support service
- Assume leadership roles, participate and attend local and national committees and conferences and respond to requests for information on client issues
Client-to-Client Evaluation and Training Team
Falling under the direction of the OCA is the Client-to-Client Evaluation and Training Team (CCETT). Becoming operational in 1998, CCETT, was an entirely client-run evaluation/survey process. In 2005, CCETT shifted focus concentrating its evaluation and training efforts on the newly implemented Peer Support Service.
The CCET coordinator and trainer(s) are responsible for:
- Training, certification and continuous education of the Certified Peer Support Specialists
- Evaluation of the peer support service
- Participate in evidenced-based research around the peer support service
- Participate in leadership roles, attend local and national committees and conferences and respond to requests for information on client issues
Local Office of Client Affairs
Client Affairs Coordinators (CAC’s) are internal agents of change who voice the client perspective during key meetings and policy sessions. They strive to overcome stigma in the community as well as well as within the agency, giving hope to clients, staff and families that people with mental illnesses can and do recover. All seventeen community mental health centers as well as the DMH in-patient facilities may employ a Client Affairs Coordinator. The job of a CAC is a management position. CAC’s perform a variety of valued job functions within the agency key roles include:
- Member of center management team
- Steer and support the development of client leadership through a Client Advisory Board (CAB) for persons served thru the mental health center
- Attend & participate at facility and departmental meetings & task forces
- Participate in Anti-stigma Campaigns
- Participate in Q/A Initiatives
- Participate in client/new employee orientation
Certified Peer Support Specialists
The Peer Support Service is provided by self-identified clients of mental health services, who have successfully demonstrated their own efforts at self-directed recovery and who have been hired by the mental health center or advocacy organization to provide clinical skill building services to clients. Certified Peer Support Specialists (CPSS) complete a 30- hour training program and must pass both a written and oral test to become certified. Peer Support is a helping relationship between a client and Certified Peer Support Specialist (CPSS) encouraging respect, trust, and warmth. The service empowers clients to make changes and decisions to enhance their lives. The job of a CPSS is not to replace current clinical mental health staff but to offer additional and/or alternative options to help clients in their efforts to recover. Services that CPSS’s Provide:
- Self Help – Learning how to make informed, independent choices; developing a network of contacts for information and support outside of the mental health system.
- Self Improvement – Learning how to plan and carry out activities to increase self esteem and self worth.
- System Advocacy – Learning how to gather information about issues related to mental illness and/or recovery.
- Individual Advocacy – Developing skills to be able to discuss concerns about medication or diagnosis with the Physician or Nurse; to help you arrange necessary treatment when requested; and to guide you toward a proactive role in your treatment.
- Crisis Support – Learning how to design and use a crisis plan, and to learn alternatives to using the emergency room, hospital or jail.
- Housing – Learning about stable housing and/or how to end an unsafe or inadequate housing situation.
- Social Network – Learning how to build healthy relationships
All Self-Identified Employees
Self-identified client employees should not be treated any differently than any other SCDMH employee and are subject to the same directives and policies. They should have the ability to demonstrate recovery expertise including knowledge of approaches to support others in recovery and dual recovery, as well as the ability to demonstrate their own efforts at self-directed recovery. In addition, they should have one year of active participation in a local or national mental health client movement, which is evidenced by previous volunteer or work experience. Beyond a demonstration of personal mental health stability, self-identified client employees should be:
- have organizational skills
- be self-motivated with the ability to work well independently or in groups
- possess strong inter-personal and communication (verbal & written) skills
- exercise good judgment
In additional to their management and/or clinical responsibilities, self-identified client employees serve as recovery role models for each client, staff, family and community member they come into contact with. The willingness to publicly disclose their mental illness and triumphs associated with recovery go a long way in dispelling the stigma of mental illness and prove that treatment works.