Fall Newsletter - October 2022
It’s fall and as the leaves are turning various beautiful colors in New England, I’m reminded of how things cycle and constantly change. In fact it was a September in 1999 that I woke up in a psychiatric hospital in Worcester, not knowing that I would eventually find my life’s work, a community, a home, a wife, and a family in this place after growing up in Oregon. One of the first places I called (back when phone calls were the way to go) was the National Empowerment Center (NEC). Laurie Ahern answered the phone, was extremely supportive, and sent me some materials that forever changed my life. The people at NEC believed that I wasn’t broken, that I was a whole person and could live a full life.  NEC connected me to a whole community of people who believed the same, and that is a big reason I’ve become the person I am today.
Now it’s 23 autumns later and NEC is celebrating 30 years with some big changes. Founder and long-time CEO, Dan Fisher, retired from his CEO position to move on to a position on the Board of Directors. Dan is a visionary who has used his own lived experience to help NEC be at the forefront of the international consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement, including developing training programs like Finding Our Voice and Emotional CPR. When Dan decided to move on, the Board hired me to be the new CEO and now I’ve gone from someone who was helped by the organization to leading the organization. 
As CEO, I am committed to continuing NEC’s tradition of honoring our history and values as a peer movement. We need to never forget that our movement is ultimately a human rights movement and we need to keep speaking our truth. Our movement also has deep intersections with other movements such as the civil rights movement, neurodiversity movement, women’s movement, prison movement, etc. None of us can do the work that needs to be done alone. In that spirit, we have a wonderful core staff and we recently hired Tanya Ryder as our new COO, who brings a wealth of experience nationally and who has expertise in cultural empathy and cultural humility. 
To celebrate 30 years and these changes, we hosted a Coffee House style event online in August where we exchanged stories of NEC’s impact over the years as well as sharing our vision for the future. We highly recommend you watch the entire Pass the Torch celebration here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNnM-kPxv1g&t=22s. For my part, I am dedicated to making NEC a diverse and equitable organization, being open to others shining lights on my blind spots and making the changes that are necessary for a more just and livable world. As we said in our celebration, “This is How We Do It!”
Leadership Spotlight

For this newsletter’s Leadership Spotlight, we will be featuring a youth leader, Amey Dettmer, the Program Manager of the Copeland Center’s Doors to Wellbeing program. Below is an interview with Amey:
Can you tell us about your role and the work you do for the Copeland Center?
At the Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery, I am the Program Manager of the Doors to Wellbeing (D2W) program. D2W is one of five National Consumer Technical Assistance Centers, with partial funding through SAMHSA.  In this role, I focus on strengthening the peer support workforce, providing education to peers, allies, and other mental health administrators, and sharing information about the possibilities of recovery and wellness for all people. This work allows me the space to watch creative projects and ideas come to life through planning, partnerships, and passion for making an impact on the types of mental health care and services people in the United States have access to.
When did you first begin doing youth peer advocacy work? What sparked your passion for being involved with that kind of work?
I graduated from my initial peer specialist training in 2011, just ten days after turning 22. My passion for this career in peer support and advocacy for systems change has been nonstop ever since. Since I got into this field at a young age and because of my own personal experiences with the youth mental health system, youth advocacy really matters to me. As young people, it often feels like we have less of a voice or no voice, at least it did for me. In all honesty, my passion is often found in my anger. At 22 I was still angry about the experiences I had during a one-year stay at a Youth Residential Treatment Facility. That year, where I spent my 17th birthday, was an eye-opener to a system that was dehumanizing, not focused on recovery, and had a major lack of trauma-informed approaches. I left this place with more trauma than I went in with, and with a sense of institutionalization.  My passion comes from recognizing a major need for changes in our systems that move away from harmful approaches and instead bring healing, community inclusion, and compassion to people in need of support.
What are some recent projects or accomplishments that you would like to highlight?
Recently I have been a part of rolling out a new training called Peer Supported Psychiatric Advance Directives (PADs). This is a project that is laying the groundwork for empowering those of us with lived experience to have a better understanding of PADS. It offers an experiential mutual learning environment that not only shares about what PADs are; but touches on the many things to consider and begin preparing for how we can get the best type of support we can when/if we are not able to make decisions on our own behalf. It also has supported my own learning in understanding how a PAD protects me, helps my supporters, and improves the quality of care within our mental health systems. I am also excited about making PAD education available and accessible to young people who want to make sure they have a say in the type of mental health care they receive.
Not as recently, but in my career, my efforts and advocacy have been honored by the National Association of Peer Supporters as I was awarded the Disruptive Innovator Award in 2018.  This award recognized my work in youth peer leadership recognizing my significant transformative contribution to the field of Peer Support through leadership, programming, and activism.
What are some upcoming projects that you are working on that you’d like to tell us about?
A few years back, alongside other youth peer leaders, I was part of creating a Youth Peer Training called Peer Generation: Youth Empowerment. In short, it's an introductory course to peer support and resiliency, which was specifically developed by youth for youth. I've been involved in facilitating this training in Washington DC, Nebraska, Florida, and most recently online for youth in Pennsylvania. In partnership with the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers Association, and Youth MOVE PA we are going to be reaching out to school settings and providing education on Peer Support Implementation Strategies and bringing the Peer Generation Youth Empowerment Model into spaces for more young people to learn about and have access to peer support in a group setting.  I dream that one day peer support programs will exist in all schools and will transform the way mental health is viewed for generations to come.
What do you love most about the work you do?
I love working with like-minded, skilled, and driven people who want to see the same changes I do and who envision a better world of mental health support that's always accessible. I love watching and witnessing people find the empowerment to take charge of their own lives and embrace healing and wellness. I love that working as an Advanced Level Facilitator of many various peer support and recovery-related trainings, I get to witness people's growth into roles of hope-giving leadership. I can't imagine doing anything else, as I know this work saves lives and makes our world a better place.
New Research Published on Experiences of Community Members Engaged in eCPR
Research findings of an emotional CPR study published in June 2022 found eCPR benefits individuals from multiple, diverse demographics. 560 individuals, including peer support specialists, service users, clinicians, family members, and nonprofit leaders participated in virtual eCPR trainings between April 20, 2020, and July 31, 2020. Of the 560 participants, 31 individuals participated in virtual focus groups. The authors interviewed the participants about their experiences in the training.
The results show that eCPR can enhance participants’ ability to connect with others, to understand what it means to be with someone who is experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis, to accept their own emotions, and to be confident in being their most authentic self in both their work and personal lives. Participants found eCPR training to be a valuable resource for learning new skills when engaging with an individual who may be in distress or experiencing a mental health crisis. These skills included active listening, integrating shared experiences into practice, the ability to connect with others on an emotional level even on a web-based platform, and how to emotionally hold someone in their time of distress and need.
For a one-page summary of the article, click here.
To access the full-text publication, visit: https://formative.jmir.org/2022/6/e32219/ 
Upcoming Webinar
Please join us for an upcoming webinar in our Compassionate Alternatives to Crisis webinar series, “Art and Healing – The Beauty Path,” presented by Meghan Caughey, which will take place on Thursday, October 20th, 2:00pm – 3:30pm ET, 11:00am – 12:30pm PT. This webinar will explore how art guides one artist, Meghan Caughey, in her recovery, plus how making art can be a tool for you in your own path and in supporting others. We will view some of the drawings and paintings by Meghan Caughey MFA, and hear the story of the role making art plays in her recovery and life. Next, we invite webinar participants to make their own guided drawings based on the metaphor of the lotus. We’ll also discuss a few group art activities that peer support specialists and others can use for supporting expression and creativity. After the stories and drawing we will have time for questions and informal discussion.
Click here to register for the webinar.
PLEASE BRING: The art activities described above require paper and something to draw with—such as oil pastels, colored pencils or markers, or anything else you prefer.
This newsletter was developed under grant number 1H79SM082648 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The views, policies, and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.