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Individual Advocacy

Individual advocacy: Individual advocacy focuses on the needs of an individual in order to change the situation of one person in order to protect his or her rights and / or improve services received by that individual.

Individual advocacy will also assist families in resolving issues relevant to an individual family member. Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association (PMHCA) recovery advocates provide individual advocacy and supports individuals through the advocacy process.

Each interaction with a recovery advocate at PMHCA is not only focused on ensuring that the individual's rights are protected, but also in helping each individual gain the skills and understanding to be more successful self advocates.

Advocacy and Recovery

People from all over Pennsylvania find their way to PMHCA advocates when they have not been able to get the help they need where they live. The following are stories of recovery supports provided by PMHCA. The names of people and places are fictitious.

Proper Mental Health Treatment

An aunt in California called the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association (PMHCA), because her adult niece was not doing well in a Pennsylvania group home. The niece had stopped talking and had been diagnosed with dementia, in addition to her mental health disorder. The aunt feared that the provider would follow through with plans to send her niece to a nursing home that would not provide mental health treatment. PMHCA recovery advocates were able to contact OMHSAS regional representatives and the professionals at the group home to facilitate conversations among all the parties, including the niece and aunt. The end result, after months of working together, was to obtain a neurological exam for the niece which ruled out dementia. The discussions also led to finding a more appropriate community setting for the niece, where she had less stress and more opportunity for treatment that met her needs.

Know Your Rights

The Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association (PMHCA) provides advocacy to people living in state mental hospitals. "Mary" had lived in one for several years. As she started to get well, she wanted to know what regulations governed her placement and treatment. Her first contact in the hospital refused to give her the regulations. PMHCA's recovery advocate contacted the hospital's external advocate, who knew the requirements to share information with people. Mary was then given the regulations and they were explained to her.

Rights and Medication

A homeless person with a serious mental illness eventually found his way into a community hospital's mental health unit. "Jim" had no family to advocate for him and felt like he was being forced to take medication against his will. He called the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association (PMHCA) and a recovery advocate talked to him and later visited him in the hospital, where he was able to engage the treatment professionals, with Jim's permission and participation. Jim learned more about medications and made a choice to take one that he and the doctor felt would help him stabilize enough to prepare for discharge into the community. The advocate also made sure that the social worker and others worked with Jim to develop a plan for discharge with community supports that would help with his recovery.

These individuals are further along the road to recovery and to learning to advocate for themselves, thanks to the assistance offered by the Recovery Specialists.

Stories of Recovery

Visit the Recovery section of this Web site to read more real life stories of mental health and recovery.

Take Action

In the end, it is up to you, the individual, to be your own advocate and protect your rights. Have an issue? Contact your legislators.