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Empowering Peer Support


Last November, Humboldt County Department of Human and Health Services, through a grant from California Office of Statewide Health, Planning and Development (OSHPD) hosted a 10-day Peer Support Specialist Certification training that was led by Recovery Innovations (RI) to train 10 mental health staff and volunteers in the Eureka area. A lucky member of our Crestwood Eureka campus, Rebecca, a Peer Support Specialist through Dreamcatchers Empowerment Network, was invited to attend. This training is designed to enhance the peer support skills of participants, while empowering them to be more self-directed and competent in providing recovery and resilience services to clients.

“The Peer Support Specialist Certification training turned out to be one of the most interesting classes I have ever taken. I was excited to be included in the two-week course, which opened new doors for me to learn how I could partner and relate to people seeking services,” said Rebecca.

It has been a year since Rebecca began working as a Peer Support Specialist at Crestwood Eureka, and she is grateful for the conceptual framework and the set of skills which this training gives to her job. “I felt empowered to learn these things in the company of other peer support and mental health workers, who have been working to combat stigma and provide support within the county mental health system,” said Rebecca. “I have learned to better understand my role in the comprehensive health facility that I work in. I have gained valuable resources to guide me, to set my own goals, and to provide meaningful direction for my work.

Peer Support in Eureka

Rebecca (left) and Kelli Jack, Director of Hope Center in Eureka (right), proudly displaying their certificates from the Peer Support Specialist Certification Training.

This Peer Support Specialist Certification training provided a wealth of a wealth of information and skills to participants. Rebecca reported that the train- ing was relevant not only to her, but to anyone doing mental health work. She said, “The concept of helping people find their own strengths to make decisions leading to recovery is a powerful idea and is useful at any level of the mental health community.”

Contributed by:
Rebecca, Peer Support Specialist, Dreamcatchers Empowerment Network, Crestwood Eureka Campus

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Choosing Recovery


Recovery is a choice; a person has to choose to be willing to work on their own recovery and actively participate in determining what recovery means to them. Not only is recovery a choice, it is an ongoing choice that is deeply personal and one that a person has to keep choosing every day, even though it may be difficult at times.

At Crestwood Center at Napa Valley when a client is not ready to begin their journey of recovery, we let them know that we are here to help them when they decide they are ready. We are able to offer compassion, support and empathy in a non-judgmental manner. We offer a variety of opportunities they can participate in that will hopefully make their choice for recovery easier such as WRAP, DBT, working for Dreamcatchers Empowerment Network, art therapy, and various addiction-based recovery groups. Independent studies are also available for those not comfortable in groups.

Once one of our clients makes the decision to begin their journey of recovery, it then becomes an ongoing choice, a new habit and a new way of life for them. Eventually, choosing recovery for them becomes easier. Recovery may be difficult for so many reasons such as facing uncomfortable thoughts, doing things they may not want to do, and even things they may believe are unnecessary. Sometimes the process of recovery includes not having much power or control over one’s own life for a time. So we try to provide our clients with tools, skills and plans they can use to gain empowerment and independence. Sometimes the realization of having to make the choice of recovery for the rest of their lives can be overwhelming, but we always remind them to take it one day at a time.  We encourage them by letting them know that when recovery does become a habit, it stops being so daunting.

The work we do at Crestwood Center at Napa Valley can be frustrating at times because we cannot force a client to work on their recovery, as much as we want it for them. But more often than not, our work is very rewarding when we can help a client with their recovery. We can never give up hope and instead we can hold the hope for the hopeless and support their decisions. We can continue to help others discover their own path on the road to recovery by offering counseling, encouragement, our life experiences and our strengths. Our goal is to let our clients know that recovery is a choice that is worth making, so that they can maximize their life and achieve a sense of balance and fulfillment.

Contributed by:
Cheri Tugmon
Service Coordinator
Crestwood Center at Napa Valley

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Crestwood’s Journey


I first learned about Crestwood four years ago in Boston, where I met Mertice “Gitane” Williams, Crestwood’s Vocational Wellness Educator, at a Trauma Summit hosted by the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care. My introduction to Crestwood and subsequent work with Crestwood has had a profound effect in my personal and professional life.

I train and consult on creating trauma-informed systems all over the country and in some other parts of the world. As many of you know, trauma-informed care (TIC) is about operating from a set of values consistent with trauma-informed principles. First and foremost, Crestwood values are very much aligned with the values of TIC. But more importantly, Crestwood lives and practices its values, which makes it a trauma-informed organization.

Creating trauma-informed organizations is a journey. This journey can be difficult and challenging, but rewarding. Crestwood understands this and has made a commitment to this journey for the long haul. This is what makes my journey with Crestwood unique. I have assisted many organizations in this journey and some organizations introduce TIC as a “flavor of the month”, and then later that energy fades away. But this is not the case at Crestwood. Two years after my big training for Crestwood on TIC, the DVD of that training remains mandatory viewing for their new staff orientation. Of course, I still blush when I walk into a program and get recognized from that DVD!

Trauma-informed care is about healing. There are experiences in all our lives and our clients’ lives that leave an emotional wound, and some of those are deeper than others. A very wise Native American psychologist once said that trauma is the “wound that does not bleed.” Therefore, our job is to create a system of care that ultimately helps heal these wounds. We can call it many names, but ultimately most everything we do boils down to promoting healing. Crestwood understands this concept and that is why the many initiatives that Crestwood embarks on helps people heal. For example, the development of welcoming rooms to replace intake/admission rooms is a significant move towards healing. When clients walk into a Crestwood building, their first encounter is to walk into a room that says, “We are here to make you feel safe and wanted” versus “We are here to fix you.” Practices that empower clients to manage their treatment honors clients’ self-determination. Also the preponderance of rocking and sliding chairs in the programs provides rhythmic and repetitive movements for self-soothing and building new self-regulatory pathways, which are important in a client’s healing journey.  All the environmental improvements and enhancements convey the message to your clients and staff that you provide them with a place to live and work that reflects their importance in this world. The Dreamcatchers Empowerment Network program is not just a vocational program, it is a program that helps clients rediscover and reinforce their worth in this world and that they can make a difference.

There are many big and small things that are being implemented throughout Crestwood. I urge you to view all of these as steps in the healing journey and that there is no deed too small to make an impact on healing. There is no job or function that does not contribute to this journey.  The Crestwood motto, “It’s About Growth” is founded on the understanding that it is hard to grow without healing from the past. Practicing trauma-informed approaches is akin to preparing and tilling the land to ensure growth is possible. A good gardener knows that it is important to know the nutrients that already exist in the soil in order to supplement and enhance what is already there.  This is why it is also crucial that you recognize and honor the many years you have been conducting healing practices with your clients. Your journey is in discovering and implementing healing practices that will augment the wonderful things you all are already doing.

Lastly, I thank you all for the privilege in making me a part of the Crestwood journey!

Contributed by:
Raul Almazar
Almazar Consulting & Senior Consultant to the National Center for Trauma Informed Care.

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Making a Difference & Giving Back


Two Amazing Graduates who are Making a Difference and Giving Back

When Crestwood San Diego opened in June 2014, a client named J. was admitted to the program in its second week of services. It was then that J. and staff created and began working on her personal plan for recovery. In just a little over three months, J. became Crestwood San Diego’s first “graduate” meaning that she had successfully completed the program and was ready for discharge to the community.  J. felt that her experience at Crestwood was so valuable that she decided to return to the facility as a peer volunteer to assist others on their personal journeys of recovery.  After a couple of months of work as a peer volunteer, J. was offered a paid position as a Rehabilitation Assistant at Crestwood San Diego. She accepted that offer and has since completed a Peer Training course through NAMI.  J. continues to work in this capacity at the facility, providing inspiration and support to the clients, as well as staff.

Crestwood Chula Vista opened in June 2015, and one of the clients admitted there shortly after was A.  A. soon became a participant in the Crestwood Chula Vista’sDreamcatchers Empowerment Network Vocational Program, designed to provide support and education to those with the goal of finding employment. Following J.’s leadfrom Crestwood San DiegoA. became Crestwood Chula Vista’s second “graduate”. A. now returns twice a week to the facility in the role of peer volunteer, providing meaningful support to others. In addition to providing peer support, A. also leads a weekly bible study group at the facility.  He currently has the goal of becoming a Rehabilitation Assistant like J., and is well on his way to achieving that goal with thesupport of staff at Crestwood Chula Vista.

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Providing Meaningful Roles


American River Residential Services Providing Meaningful Roles for Their Residents

At American River Residential Services (ARRS), they provide residents with community housing and support services in a welcoming and motivating atmosphere, with the goal for each resident to be able to live independently when they graduate from the program. One important part of ARRS’ program in helping residents achieve their goal of independent living is Vocational Wellness.  Vocational Wellness acknowledges the need for creating meaningful roles through personal satisfaction and enrichment in one’s life, which is developed through learning job skills and building on positive activities. 

Vocational Wellness at ARRS begins with an assessment, followed by providing residents with assistance in applying for an identification card, obtaining a social security card, and completing paperwork. ARRS’ Program Director, Damela Barnes, initiates the next step in the Vocational Wellness program by encouraging residents to become a Dreamcatcher.  A Dreamcatcher is a resident who, after having gone through the initial process of participating in the Vocational Wellness program, agrees to go through vocational training by working in a part-time job.  Often times when residents are first approached about becoming a Dreamcatcher their responses range from, “I can’t work because I’m disabled,” to “I can’t do a job, it’s too hard,” and even “I receive an SSI check every month and I don’t need a job, I’m fine.”  But with positive encouragement from the staff, these same residents often agree to participate in the Dreamcatchers’ program and discover meaningful roles for themselves through the job experience.  An example of this is Tamara who says, “I enjoy being a Dreamcatcher.  I work three times a week and it’s really fun. I have been working for a month now and would like to continue.”

Dreamcatchers are assigned rewarding and positive work experiences in various job positions throughout the facility, such as kitchen assistants, housekeeping assistants, maintenance assistants, office assistants, recycling, and groundskeepers. Staff members, working in their respective departments, serve as mentors to the Dreamcatchers.

The Dreamcatchers’ program is very popular at ARRS, with at least half of their residents participating.  ARRS’ ultimate goal, by providing the resident Dreamcatchers with a simulated working environment within the facility, is that it will eventually help them transition into working in the community prior to graduating from the program.  It is extremely rewarding for the staff mentors to see this whole transformation unfold before their eyes. “The experience of working with residents and seeing them succeed is simply amazing and enriching and it all begins with providing residents with meaningful roles,” said Vernon Frayna, Program Coordinator at American River Residential Services and the PHF.

Many Dreamcatcher residents love the fact that they receive a paycheck with their name on it every two weeks.  “I work as an office assistant.  My job is very fulfilling and I like working with the staff,” said Traci, a Dreamcatcher.  “I am excited about my paycheck every two weeks.  And I look forward to a rewarding career as a full-time receptionist after I graduate from the program.”

Meaningful roles created through learning job skills and working at a job gives the Dreamcatchers a reason to get up in the morning, smile, and keep up with their hygiene and grooming, and associating with others.  Vernon observed, “Because they know that people believe in them, that makes them feel good about themselves.”

The Dreamcatcher residents are thriving, feel empowered, supported and understood at ARRS by being provided with meaningful roles. Vernon reflected, “One of the best compliments I have ever received from a Dreamcatcher at ARRS was, ‘Thank you for letting me do a job and for giving me hope.’”