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Mental Health Consumer/Survivors Create National Coalition

By (BI) Susanna Daniel

WASHINGTON -- Mental health consumer/survivors have formed a national coalition to ensure that they play a major role in the development and implementation of health and mental health care and social policies at the state and national levels.

"The creation of the National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations (NCMHCSO) is a milestone," said the group's Director of Public Policy, Lauren Spiro. "The formation of this Coalition takes us to the next level - it enables us to raise our collective voice, based on our experience of mental health recovery, and be heard at the seat of power. The Coalition embraces the disability movement's motto, 'Nothing about us without us.'" The Coalition will collaborate with other advocacy groups to ensure that consumer rights policies continue to move towards promoting full participation and integration in the community.

The rapidly growing Coalition currently consists of organizations run by consumers representing 28 states and the District of Columbia, including representatives from the three federally funded consumer-run national technical assistance centers: the Consumer Organization and Networking Technical Assistance Center, the National Empowerment Center, and the National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse.

The Coalition proposes a new consensus for the mental health field based on the following principles:

-- Recovery is possible for everyone. To recover, we need services and supports that treat us with dignity, respect our rights, allow us to make choices, and provide assistance with our self-defined needs. This range of services must include consumer-run and -operated programs.

-- Self Determination: We need to be in control of our own lives.

-- Holistic Choices: We need choices, including a range of recovery- oriented services and supports that provide assistance with housing, education, and career development.

-- Voice: We must be centrally involved in any dialogues and decisions affecting us.

-- Personhood: We will campaign to eliminate the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illnesses.

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