Consumer Leadership in Community Mental Health
As we work to make the mental health system do an even better job helping consumers recover from mental illness, it is very important to include consumers as leaders in every part of the system. Consumer leadership is needed to make sure that services include what consumers need and want. King County is committed to helping consumer become leaders within the mental health centers, King County Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services, and all other parts of the mental health system.
Leadership in Mental Health Agencies
The community mental health agencies have Boards of Directors. Ask at your mental health agency if there are any openings for consumers. Also ask if you can attend board meetings to learn about the management of your agency.
Some mental health agencies also have consumer advisory boards or consumer councils. Ask at your agency if they have such a board and if not, how you might help to create one.
Within King County Mental Health
The King County Mental Health Plan has a citizen advisory board, called the King County Mental Health Advisory Board. Find out more about the advisory board.
The King County Mental Health Plan also has workgroups for the development, implementation and on-going assessment of the efforts to change to a system based on Recovery:
- Voices of Recovery is made up of consumers of the King County Mental Health Plan, with a King County staff person as liaison. This group reviews and provides input on all King County recovery transformation activities. Consumers are paid a stipend for their participation in this group, which is a permanent feature of the transformation process. The group is also developing other strategies to increase consumer voice and influence in the system.
- The Recovery Advisory Committee is a group of consumers, advocates, agency staff, King County Advisory Board members, and King County staff, this group provides direct consumer, family, and provider input into MHCADSD and provider recovery transformation activities and outcomes.
Within Washington State:
Washington received a grant from the federal government to support recovery transformation. Check out the website for the Washington State Mental Health Transformation Project for opportunities to get involved.
For children, youth and families
The Statewide Action for Family Empowerment of Washington (SAFE WA) is a network of family organizations focused on supporting parents and caregivers raising children with complex mental health needs, and youth organizations supporting youth.
Youth 'N Action exists to provide a voice for at-risk youth ages 14-24 as advocates for their education, treatment, mental wellness, and overall health and happiness.
Local and National Organizations
The Washington Health Empowerment Network (WHEN), is a statewide nonprofit incorporated organization devoted to mental health education, advocacy and training. The organization is consumer run, and driven by consumer voice. WHEN is dedicated to mental health recovery and wellness by promoting and supporting recovery through community education, and systems' advocacy activities for its consumer members and the general public. Any consumer is eligible to join. Membership is free. WHEN can also be reached by leaving a voice mail message at 206-363-2380.
Mental Health Action is a newly formed consumer/peer advocacy group in Washington State. Their mission is to review and provide input into the publicly funded mental health system regarding plans and policies which impact them.
If you would like more information, you can email them at MentalHealthAction@comcast.net.
Another place consumers and family members can be leaders is by becoming involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). All of the NAMI groups are organizations including people who have mental illnesses, family members, friends and professionals, all working to ensure everyone gets the best services possible to help them recover. There are three NAMI groups in King County. They have information, referrals, support groups and other information on their websites:
Alphabet Soup OR What do all those initials mean?
If you do decide to get involved, and we hope you do, one of the first things you notice is how many acronyms are used. "Acronyms" are that shorthand that uses the first letter of each word, instead of using the word itself. For example, we use "KCMHP" when we mean "King County Mental Health Plan". Here is a link to a useful website that lists most of the acronyms you may see:
For more information about consumer leadership and involvement in the mental health system nationwide, please check out these links to other organizations.