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August 28, 2017

Bullying Has No Place in the Integration Process

Among consumer/survivor initiatives and peer support programs, the word “integration” is often not a pleasant one. Why?

Integrations bring several structural changes that are often contrary to the values and beliefs of people with lived experience:

  1. When consumer/survivor initiatives that have the control of governance and the leadership to run their own programs are subsumed into a mainstream organization it often means that they lose equitable representation or voice in the new boardroom, lose their fiscal autonomy, and former executive directors (if retained) report to a supervisor that may not have full awareness or understanding of the uniqueness of a program previously run by and for people with a mental health or addictions diagnosis.
  2. Peer support is not a treatment. It’s a state of being that percolates within an appropriate environment. Peer run environments focus on making people feel safe and comfortable, open their doors during the hours that their memberships desire, and are accessible to their needs. The feel of community, often deepened with the sharing of food, allows people to talk, laugh, trust, and ultimately help and support one another. New working conditions may not carry over or support the same principles of a member-driven, peer run environment.
  3. There’s the intuitive understanding that people are striving towards personal recovery in their personal individualized paths. Peer-run programs are accepting and non-judgmental in the choices that people make, rarely have exclusionary criteria, and respond to the needs and wishes of their members rather than to medically modelled treatment agendas .

Ultimately, the process of integration of organizations within a LHIN likely does not make PWLE happy campers. The process itself should not be made a traumatic experience, which is the usual result when the attempt is made to pretend that a directed integration is a voluntary one. Surely cultivating a working environment of civility, mutual respect, and avoiding double-speak is not too much to ask.

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