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February 2, 2012 Volume 3, Issue 4
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The RTP quarterly e-newsletters keep you posted on our efforts to bring recovery into everyday clinical practice. A variety of personal stories and columns reflect how we promote the vision, values, and principles of recovery for behavioral health practitioners and consumers. To view previous issues, please visit If you would like to contribute to the e-newsletter, please email

Stay tuned: The next RTP Webinar, "Understanding and Building on Culture and Spirituality in Recovery-Oriented Practice," is scheduled for April 4, 2012. Additional information will follow.

What Are the Odds?
by Chris Martin
What were the odds that out of 1,700 men, 13 would show up at the same awards ceremony dressed exactly alike? These men hadn't consciously planned to dress alike that morning, nor had they consulted each other on what they would be wearing. But there they were: 13 beaming men sitting together in the front rows of a little chapel and almost indistinguishable from one another. Each had a brown shirt that matched his brown pants—the same color and style worn by the other 12 men. Their shirts even had the same designer label.

It was actually no coincidence these men were dressed alike. But the odds were tremendous—perhaps nothing short of miraculous—that they were being honored and awarded on this day. These men were among the first Certified Peer Specialists to graduate from a peer training course within a State prison. (The very first eight inmates graduated one month earlier at the Greensburg, Pennsylvania facility.) Remarkably, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDC) is the only prison system in the world to pioneer a project of this nature. Upon completion of the course, graduates are eligible to work as peer support specialists in the prison, providing support to fellow inmates.

The 13 men had successfully completed a 2-week peer employment training course delivered by Recovery Innovations. An internationally recognized program, the course prepares people with lived experience of mental illness to provide empowering peer support for those beginning recovery journeys. It is an intense, university-level course, which consists of a 230-page textbook, nightly reading and homework assignments, a substantial midterm exam, an evaluated oral exam, and a comprehensive final exam. Not only were these men setting a global precedent, but they had each graduated with an "A" grade!

On the other side of the aisle sat various officials from PDC, including Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, Superintendent Kenneth Cameron, Re-Entry Program Manager and project grant writer Mary Finck, and other State administrators, therapists, social workers, and officers. When Superintendent Cameron approached the podium, he looked at the graduates and said very frankly, "I've got to tell you that when we were first told about this project in our initial meeting, we were very skeptical. However, the more we thought about it, [the more] we began to realize we had an amazing opportunity to really use your skills here in the prison and ultimately provide you with a wonderful re-entry career on the outside."

The graduates then shared some of their stories and what the class meant to them. A more senior graduate said taking the class helped him realize he was "in prison" long before he was actually there. But now he had hope. A younger graduate said, "To think that I once considered myself a 'throwaway person' and now I can be a true blessing to others—this is absolutely incredible!"

Everyone provided their full attention as a tall and strongly built graduate walked to the podium. He began to share his compelling story, but suddenly stopped. As he turned his head toward the prestigious guests, he took a deep breath and spoke in almost a whisper. "We want you to know that we are feeling very overwhelmed by your presence today. It tells us that you don't see us [merely] as prisoners, but as men who can give something valuable to others."

Perhaps many of the guests wondered about the odds of what they witnessed that day—13 men dressed alike, yet each so unique. I'm not sure of the number for those odds, but I do know a more significant number will be the people whose lives they'll touch.

Chris Martin is the Recovery Opportunity Center Director of Training and Consultation.

Trauma-Informed Care Webinar
RTP held its seventh successful Webinar on January 25, 2012. Approximately 1,600 registrants participated in the session, including mental health practitioners, consumers, people in recovery, program directors and administrators, and other stakeholders. Presenters addressed a range of trauma-informed care (TIC) issues, leading in-depth discussion on outpatient settings, TIC planning, and interventions that can help facilitate recovery.

The presentation and recording are available for download at

NEW! RTP Resource
Did you know 90 percent of adults who meet the medical criteria for addiction started smoking, drinking, or using drugs before age 18?

Teen Triumph is a newsletter with a wealth of recovery resources for adolescents, parents, and the community. Published by Recovery Resources, an Ohio organization that delivers outpatient mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, the newsletter tackles tough issues teens deal with in and out of school, such as addiction, suicidal thoughts, and peer pressure.

To read the newsletter, click here.

Recovery-Oriented Insight
What about people who won't accept having a mental illness?

How is recovery relevant for those who say there is nothing wrong?

There are people who won't accept treatment—who deny they need any help. How does recovery-oriented care apply to them?

These questions are often contemplated by practitioners and family members as they reach out to people with mental illness. They exemplify an underlying concern that recovery and recovery-oriented practices only apply to people who readily acknowledge their mental illness. The notion evokes the issue of "insight," a topic RTP Project Director Larry Davidson, Ph.D., has written about extensively. As a concept that distinguishes how people think about mental health, insight into one's illness can help practitioners and consumers move forward with treatment and recovery.

The Issue of Insight will be distributed to the RTP ListServ on February 6, 2012. You can read Dr. Gina Duncan's perspective on promoting insight to identify the possibilities and challenges of mental illness in the January 26 e-newsletter.

2010 Mental Health Findings
Through its strategic initiative for substance abuse and mental illness prevention, SAMHSA is assisting States, Territories, tribal Governments, and communities to adopt evidence-based practices; deliver health education related to prevention; and establish effective policies, programs, and infrastructure. Throughout the Nation, new programs are underway to expand community capacity and better serve those suffering from mental illness.

SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that 11.4 million people (5 percent of the adult population) have struggled with serious mental illness (SMI) in the past year. SMI refers to disabling conditions that substantially interfere with a person's life.

Other findings detailed in this report are available on the SAMHSA Web site.

The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From
Recovery-Oriented Practitioners!
We invite practitioners to submit personal stories that describe how they became involved in
recovery-oriented work and how it has changed the way they practice.
The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From You, Too!
We invite you to submit personal stories that describe recovery experiences. To submit stories or
other recovery resources, please contact Cheryl Tutt, MSW, at 877.584.8535,
or email

We welcome your views, comments, suggestions, and inquiries.
For more information on this topic or any other recovery topics,
please contact the RTP Resource Center at
877.584.8535, or email

The views, opinions, and content of this Weekly Highlight are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect
the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.