Creative Recovery Art Exhibit

(L-R) DBHDD Commissioner Frank Berry, Adult Mental Health Director Terri Timberlake, and NAMI Georgia Executive Director Kim Jones
(L-R) DBHDD Commissioner Frank Berry, DBHDD Adult Mental Health Director Terri Timberlake, and NAMI Georgia Executive Director Kim Jones

On September 9, 2015, DBHDD hosted the first annual Creative Recovery Art Exhibit showcasing the talents of people who live with mental health challenges, and the role that creative outlets like art can play in the recovery process.  Held at the Venetian Room at Hurt Plaza in downtown Atlanta, the event drew a crowd of about 75 people.  It was sponsored by DBHDD’s Office of Adult Mental Health and NAMI Georgia, and featured artwork submitted by people who receive or have received services from DBHDD’s adult community mental health providers.

Research has shown that many individuals in recovery from mental health challenges report the importance of art as an integral component of their recovery journey.  Writing, painting, drawing, jewelry-making, and other arts are enjoyable activities which can also be a portal for expression of emotions and experiences that individuals may not have been able to express in any other way.  Art is used in many community mental health programs in Georgia as a powerful healing tool to help individuals explore deep emotions—the sadness, the hopelessness, the fear, and eventually the relief, the joys, and the hope of a new day.

“Art has been a huge part of my recovery,” said Candy C., one of the exhibit’s featured artists.  “When I had been at my lowest point, picking up my pencils has helped me tremendously.  I oftentimes find myself in another world, a quite beautiful world where creativity takes place inside of me.  When life appears dark, pencil in hand, provides an outlet which is indescribable.  I am so grateful to have this talent from God.  I often find myself drawing when life seems unbearable.  This allows me to find peace and harmony.”

Stephanie T., another featured artist who is now earns a living with her art, shared her enthusiasm about the art and recovery connection: “Give art inspiration—art will give your recovery so much more.  Art is a process, the same as the recovery process.  Art has contributed to my recovery by giving me proper solitude. . . . Because art and recovery are deeply personal, art and recovery is a very unique way of changing people’s attitudes, values, feelings, and goals.  Earning a living as an artist is satisfying and contributes to life through meaning and purpose. . . .  Art is a life-long passion that gives me the perfect balance of a meaningful life despite my mental illness.”

The also exhibit featured several other artists.  Provider agencies represented included: Pineland CSB, View Point Health, Georgia Rehabilitation Outreach, Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, Lookout Mountain, and McIntosh Trail.

Representing DBHDD in the community

MLinkDBHDD’s Statewide Community Relations Office was established earlier this year to represent the department in the community. Director Michael Link travels across the state to inform organizations of department news and gather feedback on how DBHDD is fulfilling its vision of easy access to high-quality care for the people we serve.

We interviewed Mike to learn more about the Statewide Community Relations Office.

Why was there a need for this new office?
This is the first time we have had someone consistently in the community representing the department and all the disability groups. Commissioner Berry is the primary spokesperson, and he speaks on policy issues and has a relationship with stakeholders around the state to help formulate policy. Once that’s been developed, I go out and explain to people what that policy is and how it works.

So there’s an educational component to your role?
A lot what I’m doing is educational. I tell the story of the department, especially now with the reorganization. [In my presentations], I lead off with our vision and mission statements, how important that is, and how that sets the tone for the work that we do.

Can you describe your responsibilities?
I see my role as a vehicle to tell our story to the greater community and to raise the profile of the department, both as a storyteller and a brand manager. I promote the department as a key resource to community leaders, develop strong working relationship with community groups, and help coordinate communications with external groups.

What types of groups are you visiting?
I meet with community groups wherever they may be; often times to listen, and sometimes to present. I speak to all kinds of groups: community stakeholder groups that have been coordinated by NAMI, Kiwanis groups, community groups that have come together to deal with mobile crisis issues, provider meetings, local advisory council meetings, and other coalitions around the state. I attend standing meetings of the Georgia Behavioral Health Planning Advisory Council, Behavioral Health Services Coalition, and the Georgia Recovery Initiative. I also attend conferences.

How do you coordinate communications between providers and other stakeholders?
I want people to see me as a resource. Many providers are doing great, innovative work and we don’t often know about it. We want to highlight and showcase innovation. If other providers can see this work, we can connect with them and learn from them. I want providers to invite me out, to visit their programs, to see innovations that are producing good outcomes and to be able to share that with other folks.

Tell us about the community forums planned for next year.
The community education stakeholder forums will be held next year across the state. We will be educating the communities about the department and our services and programs. I think there’s a need to make sure we involve the communities in understanding and educating them about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, and to gauge the issue of access and quality of services.

If you would like Mike to attend or present at your next community meeting, please email him at Michael.Link@dbhdd.ga.gov or call him at 404-353-6342.

Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week

SPADD-DSPweekIn appreciation of direct care providers who serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in their homes and communities, Governor Nathan Deal has proclaimed September 13 – 19 as Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week in Georgia.

Direct support professionals (DSPs) include direct care workers, personal assistants, in-home support staff, and paraprofessionals who are the primary providers of publicly funded, long-term support and services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. DSPs assist individuals in leading self-directed lives that are integrated in the community. DSPs typically work in homes, workplaces, schools, and churches.

“Georgia is fortunate to have some of the best DSPs in the country,” said Curt Harrison, assistant executive director of United Cerebral Palsy of Georgia and administrator for the Service Providers Association for Developmental Disabilities (SPADD). “Their commitment, hard work and dedication results in healthy, meaningful, vibrant lives for some of our most vulnerable citizens. The proclamation issued by Governor Deal serves to honor these individuals who give so much of themselves in service to others.”

The proclamation was secured by SPADD, which will be engaging in activities across the state to recognize and honor DSPs this week.