The June 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

From Prison to Priesthood

Interview with Father James Tramel

Protest Demands Housing for Poor Families

Oakland Judge Blocks Evictions

Fresno Police Demolish Tent Encampment

Extremists Call for Attacks on Immigrants

Unjust Senate Bill on Immigration

World Bank and IMF Face Crisis

Corporate Media Fail to Address Global Hunger

Raise Minimum Wage for All

The Journey of Charlotte Tall Mountain

Dying for Nixon, Dying for Bush

In Santa Cruz Dreams Come True

Tourists Ignore Kenya's Poverty

June Poetry of the Streets


May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Dreams Come True in Santa Cruz

"Changing mental health care relies heavily on programs like MHCAN that empower individual consumers to find their own paths to recovery and share their journey with others."

by Joy Bright McCorkle

Excitement and pride are pulsing through the hearts of Santa Cruz's mental health community. Last month, the Mental Health Client Action Network (MHCAN) hosted the first annual "Wellness Recovery Roundtable." The purpose of this meeting was to discuss how to develop consumer leadership at the county level, as well as gleaning information about existing programs.

Mental health consumers attended from 15 counties, and came from as far away as Long Beach. The consumers discussed how to spend the Proposition 63 monies from the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) to improve client-run services in their respective counties. According to the mandate of the MHSA, some of the money is to be spent for "prevention and early intervention and medical and supportive care. Funds shall be available to provide services that are not already covered by federally sponsored programs."

Those attending voiced their dreams of a drop-in center, and ideas ranged from hiring an on-site psychiatrist to creating a spa setting -- a Zen-like garden for clients to sit and meditate. Everyone went home with new ideas and an understanding of what worked and didn't work. The rules were set aside and the consumers just dreamed.

It was just such a dream that started MHCAN in Santa Cruz after a group of concerned mental health clients attended a conference called "Alternatives" in Berkeley 15 years ago. The participants of that conference dreamed of a client-run organization where consumers could meet, have some coffee, and get support on their road to recovery.

In the beginning, the consumers met once a week for coffee. Now, thanks to the community and some talented clients, it has grown far beyond that. MHCAN has a computer lab with 14 computers, and hosts 22 self-help groups, ranging from a stained-glass craft class to Dual Recovery Anonymous meetings. Currently open four days a week, with the MHSA money, MHCAN hopes to be open six days a week by the end of the year.

The flatware sparkled and the appetizer trays were laden with food on May 12, 2006, when people gathered to thank the donors who assembled to hear speakers, including Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) and Assembly member John Laird (D-Santa Cruz). They honored the leadership donors of MHCAN's Capital Campaign to purchase the building that houses the drop-in center.

Through Santa Cruz's generosity for the past two years, MHCAN Executive Director Suzanne Koebler has been able to raise 85 percent of the needed capital to buy the building at Soquel and Cayuga Street, and make it a permanent home for the drop-in center and the various programs needed to enhance the client-run organization.

Sam Farr said, "Changing mental health care relies heavily on programs like MHCAN that empower individual consumers to find their own paths to recovery and share their journey with others."

Speakers urged that the donors help the capital campaign to bring psychiatric disabilities out of the closet. "The fact that prominent people from our community are willing to stand up and say they support our mission means a lot to us," noted Ron Myers, a consumer and leader in the Dual Recovery movement.

It has been shown by a research study (Consumer Operator Service Provider) that both outreach and supportive client services enhance the existing programs and lower the incidents of acute intervention and hospitalization. Rama Khalsa, director of the County Health Services Agency, stated, "Nothing as significant as this (MHSA) has happened in the past 20 years."

Ron Myers said, "Providers can't communicate with clients like peers can," and that has been the belief of many mental health consumers for years.

The evening ended with the mention of Grace Commons, which will be erected next to the drop-in center, and will house 15 consumers in one-bedroom apartments. MHCAN and the Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center obtained financing with the help of the City's Housing and Community Development and HUD.

Grace Commons will provide much needed affordable, independent housing in one of the country's most expensive rental markets. After Grace Methodist Church burned in 2000, using the land for Grace Commons became another dream of MHCAN. Groundbreaking on this project is scheduled for later this year.

It all starts with a dream. In Santa Cruz, some of those dreams are coming true!

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