Report from Organization Dialogue Session
Alternatives 2001
Philadelphia, PA
August 23-26, 2001

Facilitator: Ed Knight
Reporter: Tonya Johnson Session 1, August 23, 2001
Ed Knight opened the discussion by informing the attendees that the Center for Mental Health Services had requested that the original name of the session ("Organizing") be changed to "Organization." Although he could not confirm this, he thought that the word "organizing" may have been perceived as political.

Ed Knight did not facilitate the group. Instead, he turned the responsibility for facilitation over to a participant.

The group discussed the following topics, and offered the following ideas:

What stops the consumer movement from moving forward?

  • Sometimes consumers don't want to change.
  • Too much of an "us against them" mentality.
  • Too many factions and personal agendas.
  • Focusing too much on "language."

    What will move the consumer movement forward?

  • Inclusive seat in Washington.
  • Focus on organization.

    How do we become inclusive instead of fractious?

  • Coalition
    Unified and inclusive voice.
    Elect delegates.
  • Convention
    Build platforms to integrate and focus on issues.
  • Educate groups
    Rights and expectations.
    Use strengths.
    Peer cross-training potential.
    Praise all successes to build confidence/esteem.
  • Neutralize negativity.
    Practice spirituality, goodness and kindness toward others.
  • Understand oppression to instigate change
  • Consensus

    Why are we here (in the Organization session)?

  • To learn what everyone is doing and to gather strength from others to bring back to our own community.
  • To make groups stronger, get people involved.
  • To help grassroots consumers become united because we are losing ground.
  • To have a national voice on the national level.
  • To respect people's differences.
  • Because of inspirational dissatisfaction.
  • Because the mental health population is increasing.

    Do we have a common theme and, if so, what is it?
    Yes, and it is:

  • Recovery
  • To make a conscious effort to lift stigmas
  • Empowerment
  • Being together to support each other to achieve a common goal
  • Civil disobedience
  • Facilitate dialogue
  • To know who we are
  • Common spirituality
  • Civil rights

    List of issues to organize around and how to attack them:

    Concrete issues
  • Civil rights
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Review existing materials
  • Legal guardianship
  • Right to have a voice and speak out without fear of retribution
  • Right to fair wages (instead of a stipend)
  • Meaningful work
  • Utilization
  • Competency
  • Adequate housing, transportation and health care
  • Parity in treatment and mental health care (health care to include mental health care)


  • Segregation
  • Inability to integrate with mainstream
  • Olmstead decision cannot segregate from jail, prisons, treatment facilities, nursing homes
  • Stigma: internal and external
  • Poverty
  • System created to foster illness and dependency
  • System that is punitive toward mental health
  • Self-limitation: giving up homes and dreams
  • Current practices: psychosocial compliance

    Select/elect one or two persons from each state to represent their state

    The following "Vision Statement" was developed by the Organization Dialogue Session at Alternatives 2001:

    Mental Health consumers throughout the country face injustice in all areas of life. Examples of this include treatment, access to education, housing and employment and discrimination. These structures prevent us from living full and independent lives. That is why we are committed to transforming social attitudes, laws and services. We want to enjoy the same freedoms as all citizens.

    A motion was made to ask the general assembly (conference attendees) at the plenary session whether or not they want a National Organization; the motion was seconded; consensus was reached. (purpose: to show support fort a national organization).

    A motion was made to ask the general assembly (conference attendees) to have a national meeting exclusively around "organization"; the motion was seconded and a vote was taken: 9 in favor, 2 opposed. The motion passed.

    Presented by:

    National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse

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