Blog

Carrots in a cloth bag

About a month ago, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and stumbled upon the #ZeroWaste hashtag. Intrigued, I clicked on it and was greeted by hundreds of photos of people around the world striving to use fewer single-use products in their daily life–all in beautiful, Instagram-worthy photos. I was hooked. What is Zero Waste?… Read More


San Francisco apartments

It’s National Public Health Week (April 3-9, 2017) and like our partners and providers around the country, we are helping to raise awareness of how homelessness impacts public health. This year’s annual theme, coordinated by the American Public Health Association, is “Healthiest Nation 2030.” This theme focuses on how we can work together to create… Read More


Table

One of my favorite things about the PRA community is our “giving table”—a name I uncreatively made up for the purposes of this blog post. The table is located in our upstairs kitchen, conveniently located next to the coffee machine. While it does often serve its purpose as a place for people to prepare and… Read More


Get Social with PRA

Looking for new ways to connect with the PRA projects? Have you checked out our projects’ social media presence? National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) The NCMHJJ has a strong social media presence—you should follow and like us! Our Twitter account shares resources and opportunities for juvenile justice professionals daily, while our… Read More


Springfield TTT

On April 5th of 2016 I had the privilege to attend a How Being Trauma-Informed Improves Criminal Justice Responses Train-the-Trainer event for my professional development. PRA’s Professional Development benefit allows  employees to attend one training  or conference each year to enhance their work. As the person who works across projects assisting in material prep for meetings… Read More


Elevator Bank

Most people grow up with the wisdom passed on from generation to generation through their grandparents. However, I am unlike most people. Of my four grandparents, three of them passed away before I was born, while the remaining grandparent lived in another state. I sought mentorship at an extremely young age from older and wiser… Read More


2016 Year in Review Blog Header

We’ve closed out another wonderful year at PRA and are well on our way to an exciting 2017—our 29th year of operation (can you believe the big 3-0 is next year?). While the New Year has come and gone, we’d like to reflect on the year past and the year ahead. At our annual State… Read More


New Zealand Collage 1

Last October, Dan and I took a 2 ½ week trip to gorgeous New Zealand. The country hadn’t previously been on our destination radar, but we couldn’t pass up a flight bargain, so decided to go for it. We stayed in a majority of Airbnb homes, as well as a couple hostels, and did not… Read More


House

Guest post by Meredith Osta, Program Director of Fostering Futures NY While each of FFNY’s 15 volunteer teams is special in its own way, one group stands out for a unique reason. The team from Policy Research Associates (PRA) is made up of colleagues at a workplace. “We’re hoping to sign on more teams from companies… Read More


Gavel

The 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) was recently signed into law with overwhelming bipartisan support. It provides exciting opportunities for developing or expanding criminal justice and behavioral health collaboration to reduce the disproportionate prevalence of justice involved persons with mental illness. The Cures Act provides for a broad range of programs through multiple funding streams, including… Read More


Women's March Photo

On January 21st, I traveled to Washington, D.C. with several friends and colleagues to participate in the Women’s March on Washington. Taking part in the movement seemed vital, but frankly I was dreading the inconveniences that would also be present: a long late-night bus ride from Albany, large crowds, lack of control in a new… Read More


American Flag

This blog originally appeared on the SOAR Voices blog. With the deadline for the next round of Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) approaching on February 3rd, we want to highlight how important the integration of SOAR into SSVF programs has been in ending homelessness for Veterans with disabling conditions. In 2015, over half of… Read More


PRA's Month of Giving

As we close out another year, we’re also closing out our annual Month of Giving! Each year’s Month of Giving is special and this year was no exception. For our 2016 Month of Giving, PRA adopted a family for the holidays. We paired up with the Albany County Department for Children, Youth, and Families to… Read More


Skid Row Housing Trust’s Star Apartments

Photo: Skid Row Housing Trust’s Star Apartments  In September 2016, I flew to Los Angeles (LA) to attend a Social Security Administration (SSA) Field Hearing, as well as several other meetings to discuss the best way to collaborate and gain buy-in for SOAR in LA. We met with community members, agencies, and officials that had flown… Read More


Nicole Friendship Collage

Health nuts know all the rules. Granted, I’m the kind of health nut that primarily knows what rules she is currently breaking, but there’s one area of wellness I’ve come to take very seriously as I’ve gotten older. My commitment to it matches the degree of its hyperbolic benefits: Supports brain health! Promotes recovery! Prevents… Read More


Guitar

Read Dan Abreu’s blog about SongwritingWith:Soldiers, written in 2014. During our recent seminar on Songwriting with Soldiers, our presenter, Mary Judd, the Executive Director of SongwritingWith:Soldiers (SW:S), invited seminar participants to attend a performance during their upcoming retreat weekend. The performances are not open to the public, so I knew this was a special opportunity.… Read More


Statue of Liberty

You wouldn’t know by looking at or speaking with me, but I am an immigrant. I may not look or talk differently than you, but nonetheless I am not an American. My mom met my now stepdad while he was stationed in Kaposvár, Hungary with the U.S. Army in the late 1990s, I spent the… Read More


Group of youth

Healthy People 2020 Goal: Attain high-quality, longer lives free of preventable disease, disability, injury, and premature death The dramatic spike in heroin addiction and overdose deaths is staggering and unlike anything our country has ever seen. Heroin use has increased across most age groups and all income levels; it has more than doubled in the… Read More


Hands in heart shape in front of sun

Just after viewing Generation Found as part of PRA’s Recovery month celebration, I was asked by someone at PRA if I could share information about a new drug being used on the streets called W-18, also known as “beans” or shady 80s”. It is very dangerous painkiller that has been in the public eye lately. This… Read More


Spiritual Wellness Blog Header

I love reading and talking about spirituality, so I enthusiastically volunteered months ago to write this blog. Did I mention that when we took the 8 Dimensions of Wellness assessment that I scored the lowest on spiritual wellness? I think that’s called irony. Were any of you shocked by your scores? I wasn’t. Winston Churchill… Read More


Person holding another person's hand

When I worked in disability services, we had several people in our residential programs who lacked capacity to make informed decisions and who had no one in their lives legally authorized to make decisions on their behalf. Usually, when these folks face non-emergency invasive medical treatment or end-of-life decisions, the only recourse for their care-givers… Read More


PRA Building with Pumpkin Decorations

On Wednesday, PRA staff members took advantage of the beautiful fall day to try their hand at pumpkin carving. They carved 12 pumpkins, and they now sit outside our building to greet the residents of Delmar! We even saw a few people stop their cars to take some photos of our pumpkin display; how cool… Read More


Close-up of Rhino

Late last May, I received this email from a friend: “Janet, do you know Damien Mander? He gave a couple of TED talks recently. Had you ever watched/listened to him? Will you let me know what you think? Today?” I responded that I did know Damien Mander from watching a TED Talk. I loved Damien… Read More


Occupational Wellness blog header

When life struggles begin to interfere with your job responsibilities and productivity, taking advantage of your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help you get back on track, especially when you know you’re not working to the best of your ability. Decisions you make to grow personally may have unintended consequences, which can hinder your… Read More


Coffee Shop

I had the great opportunity to attend SAMHSA’s Homeless Programs Branch Grantee conference this past August 15-17. It felt so much like a family reunion because the conference brought together so many people united around the same purpose and so many people that I have known for years, feel forever connected to but don’t get… Read More


National Wellness Week is Sunday, September 11 through Saturday, September 17. Each day has had a different theme, and PRA staff have gotten in on the fun! PRA staff were asked to share their favorite Wellness Tip! Their answers were compiled into a Flipagram—watch to see their best tips! As Wellness Week falls during Recovery… Read More


Ramona Gardens Buildings

Image By Tedder (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons Guest post by Magdalena Morales-Aina, LPC-S, LPCC While attending a conference in Anaheim in June 2016, I decided to visit the Ramona Gardens Housing Projects with my friend and colleague Lisa. I was born in East Los Angeles and lived in the housing projects with… Read More


Lavender Field - Provence

How about a 6-day walking/hiking tour in Provence in the height of lavender season? That was the question my wife, Carolyn, asked me last January. The idea came from a brochure we received from Country Walkers, a company with whom we had done a hiking tour in Glacier and Waterton National Parks a number of years ago and… Read More


Zipline Wristband

Adrenaline seeker? Fear conqueror? Itching to break away from your routine and push your limits? Whatever the reason, if you’ve ever wanted to fly through the air with the greatest of ease, I highly recommend ziplining at Hunter Mountain! This July, I went ziplining at Hunter Mountain with five of my friends. It’s about an… Read More


School Stairway

The current controversy over the use of the slogan Black Lives Matter resonates very deeply for me.  As the wife of an African American man and the mother of three biracial children, two of whom are boys, it speaks to my fears about what they may encounter as they head out into the world each… Read More


Gavel

On Wednesday, July 27, 2016, Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia wrote an opinion that John Hinckley, Jr. no longer posed a danger to himself or others and should be released from federal supervision. Hinckley had been found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) in June… Read More


Intellectual Wellness

I often write about my experiences being a person in long-term recovery from substance abuse issues. Fairly early in my recovery I returned to school to continue my education so I could have the skills to build a career to support myself financially. I decided to major in political science with a concentration in political… Read More


Baseball game

During the course of my summer travels for PRA, I always attempt to take in as many Major League Baseball games as my schedule will allow. In a six-week period so far this summer, I have had the chance to watch games in Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Seattle, Washington. I had the… Read More


Guam Coastline

When I was first approached to go to Guam as part of the work that the Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) Technical Assistance (TA) Center is doing, I was delighted, excited, and admittedly clueless. So clueless, in fact, that I wasn’t even completely aware of where Guam is located until I got a… Read More


SOAR Training Model

PRA’s Program Areas are on the cutting edge of innovation in providing technical assistance and training in the behavioral health, homelessness, and criminal justice fields. One of our projects, the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Technical Assistance (TA) Center created a unique training model for providers that increases access to Social Security disability benefits… Read More


Fit-Friendly Worksite

The American Heart Association has recognized Policy Research Associates, Inc. as a Gold Fit-Friendly worksite! To be certified as a gold-level fit-friendly worksite, PRA met the American Heart Association’s criteria of offering employees physical activity support, increasing healthy eating options at work, and promoting a wellness culture, as well as being a tobacco-free worksite. Here’s how… Read More


Growing Clover

I’ve been dipping my toe into the pool of gardening these last few years, but this summer I really dove in. With the help of my green-thumbed boyfriend, we established a small vegetable garden held in three different ecosystems—an aquaponics system (the bass are alive and well!), a hydroponic system, and a more traditional outdoor… Read More


Chef's Materials

A few months ago, I jumped in to something that I’d been batting around for years and went to cooking school. The Capital Region (Voorheesville, specifically) is lucky enough to host Gio Culinary Studio, which offers, along with dozens of drool-worthy one-night themed classes, a six-week intensive culinary certification course. The certification classes are deliberately… Read More


Wellness Wednesday- Financial Wellness

Like many of my peers (43 million of them, to be exact), I graduated from college with student loan debt. Mine is a bit higher than your average…okay, a lot higher than your average. I remember attending the accepted students’ weekend at college and sitting through a series of student loan workshops where we were… Read More


GAINS SIM-2016v3

This post originally appeared in SAMHSA’s GAINS Center’s April 2016 eNewsletter. Subscribe to the GAINS Center’s eNewsletter to stay up to date on news, resources, and events. The Sequential Intercept Model is being used by many communities as a guide to behavioral health service system transformation, and more specifically as a tool to identify strategies… Read More


Wellness Wednesday: Emotional Wellness

It’s my first spring in Albany, and the tulips have taken me by surprise. If you aren’t local, you may not know that hundreds of thousands of tulips are planted around the Capital Region and bloom just in time for the annual “Tulip Festival,” (next weekend) an occasion that earned Albany the title of “I… Read More


Abby's Quilts

 About 2 years ago, I took up quilting. You can read all about how I became a quilter and the story behind it in my Journey to a Hobby blog. Since this post, I have delved even further into the world of quilting – I regularly attend quilt shows, have taken a number of quilting… Read More


Cat in Glasses

Being a person in long-term recovery from various behavioral health disorders, I am often asked by people, “What works? What has made your recovery possible?” This usually happens as I am getting done with a presentation, walking off stage after spending the last hour or so sharing intimate details about my personal life in front of… Read More


Alphabet Soup

This is part three of the Alphabet Soup blog. Read part one to learn the A through I acronyms, and part two to learn the J through R acronyms! Our work at PRA is filled with acronyms – we have one for just about every program, practice, and training, which can be challenging for newcomers… Read More


Wellness Wednesday-Cheese and Crackers

We all know that it is important to take care of our bodies.  With the hectic nature of our daily lives, it is easy to ignore our physical health.  Between work, travel, social, and home responsibilities, all too often, we only pay attention when an illness or injury strikes.  For me, I was forced to… Read More


Alphabet Soup

This is part two of the Alphabet Soup blog. Read part one to learn the A through I acronyms, and part three to learn the S through Z acronyms! Our work at PRA is filled with acronyms – we have one for just about every program, practice, and training, which can be challenging for newcomers… Read More


Alphabet Soup

This is part one of the Alphabet Soup blog. Read parts two and three to learn the J through Z acronyms! Our work at PRA is filled with acronyms – we have one for just about every program, practice, and training, which can be challenging for newcomers who are trying to keep up with the… Read More


View from the Cabin

It’s been a rainy winter. December through today, we’ve had nearly two inches of precipitation more than the area’s average, and everyone around the Northeast watching their skis rust in storage knows perfectly well it hasn’t been snow. While I wouldn’t mind the slopes catching a regular dusting, around the cabin I don’t miss the… Read More


paraSITE Structure

I spent my 2015 Day of Reflection visiting the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC.  I viewed a piece called “paraSITE homeless shelter” created in 1997 by Michael Rakowitz. The paraSITE inflatable shelter uses excess HVAC air to keep the individual warm. These shelters are simple and cost under five dollars! Why is this… Read More


Pig at CAS

A living, breathing, snuffling pig snout feels like nothing else I have ever before touched, except maybe a football (aka “pig skin”). Pigs also have long eyelashes that you can see when you get close enough to scratch their snouts which they seem to love given their vocalizations. Pigs are very social and quite curious… Read More


NYAPRS & Alternatives Conference Presentation

As part of the GAINS Center at Policy Research Associates for the last few years, I have been able to help provide technical assistance to SAMHSA’s Mental Health Transformation Grant (MHTG), which supported 20 grantees across the country for the last 5 years. One of the main successes of the MHTG program has been peer integration… Read More


Close up of keyboard and mouse

This blog originally appeared on the SOAR TA Center’s SOAR Voices blog. Emotionally exhausted, detached, going through the motions, insensitive, irritable – not exactly what we thought we would be feeling when we first imagined a life in human services! What seemed like a great idea – going into human services because we wanted to… Read More


Whole Health Month Blog Header-Self Efficacy

I’m a health communication scholar, and I’m passionate about and intrigued by behavior change.  This fascination was part of the impetus for my enrollment in a PhD program – thirsty for knowledge and expertise on the topic of behavior change, particularly as it relates to health and wellness. One of the central tenets of several… Read More


Whole Health Month Blog Header-The Warrior Dash

A couple of years ago, my life was not looking exactly as I would’ve hoped. For various reasons, I moved back to my hometown in February 2013 and wondered where my life was headed.  In May 2013, a girlfriend asked if I wanted to do Warrior Dash–one of those obstacle course races–in Windham in July.… Read More


Raw Food Blog Header

Back in 2012, I was on Twitter and saw a tweet from Ani Phyo, a chef, stating that people who entered a raw food challenge could win a Vitamix. At the time, I was in the market for a Vitamix, so I looked into how I could join this challenge.  I clicked the link provided;… Read More


Whole Health Month Tip Sheet - Wellness

Interested in improving your wellness? This tip sheet provides a list of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, as well as sample activities that can be done to improve wellness in each area. In addition, there is some explanation as to why these activities actually matter and proof of their ability to create subtle transformations in… Read More


Occupational Wellness Blog Header

Occupational wellness is defined as personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work (SAMHSA, 2015).  I’m in a unique position because I helped write the proposal responding to SAMHSA’s RFP for the Program to Achieve Wellness.  PRA received that contract, and I received a job with a program that I spent countless hours describing in the… Read More


Whole Health Month Play Blog Header

I love Michael Jackson.  Here’s one of my favorite Michael Jackson quotes: “I will never stop helping and love people…Continue to love, always love.  Bring on the children, imitate the children – not childish, but childlike.” From this, I gather it behooves us to live lives filled with an abundance of love and childlike adventure.… Read More


PRA's 2015 Year in Review

We’ve wrapped up another fantastic year at PRA and embarking on our 28th year of operation. One our traditions, both on the blog and at our end-of-year staff meeting, is to reflect on the hard work we have done and get energized for the year ahead. At our staff meeting, Pam encouraged staff to guess… Read More


Whole Health Month Blog Header (3)

Wellness is something many people aspire to achieve, but what is it?  How do we make sense of this vague term?  Is it being physically fit?  Is it having stability in life?  Is it maintaining recovery?  SAMHSA defines wellness as “being in good physical and mental health” and notes “Wellness is not the absence of… Read More


Field Goods Bounty

This is the time of year when everyone is deciding whether or not to make resolutions. Well, let me give you a little *ahem* food for thought. Last April I joined Field Goods, a year-round food subscription service that sources fresh, organic food from small regional farms and delivers it to community sites. Because there… Read More


Unity House Dinner

Good cheer, high spirits, and a stronger connection to the community – sounds like PRA’s Month of Giving! Started in 2013 by a group of community-minded staff as a way to give back during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the Month of Giving has grown into one of PRA’s most cherished traditions. Here’s… Read More


Blades of Grass

Every once in a while I am lucky enough to experience something that reminds me why I chose to devote my career to ensuring justice and supporting young people who society wants to throw away.  Last month I attended a day of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Youth Violence Prevention Communities of… Read More


Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme court has had a very direct impact on my entire professional career.  However, until last month, I had never been in the court.  So just how did all this come to be? It starts with my first job after graduate school with the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene.  When I… Read More


Penny as a puppy

Thanksgiving weekend also marked a third annual family reunion…for my dog. I recognize that we’re entering into strange animal-lover territory, but for the last 3 years we have reunited with Penny’s siblings and their equally loved families. This may be slightly less weird when you consider that we were somewhat bonded together from the start–our puppies… Read More


Old Deadwood Trail

Recently I was able to take a three-day trip to South Dakota with Donna for an In-State Policy Academy.  We flew into Bismarck, North Dakota on Monday, and then had a 4-hour drive to Pierre, South Dakota in a small Chevy Sonic rental car.  On our drive to South Dakota, we were amazed by how… Read More


High School Football Field

Where I grew up is the quintessential small town – Berryville, Virginia (yes, Berryville — my last name is Lemon and I grew up across the street from the Grapes).  My high school was small, with only about 100 people in the graduating class. Everyone knew everyone and it was a huge deal when a… Read More


Sarah at Aviation Museum

Wednesday night April 15, I headed to the hotel in Albany to stay the night and head off in the morning to complete my Advanced Individualized Training (AIT) at Fort Rucker, Alabama.  There are about 50 of us staying the night at the hotel, and only two of us are female.  0430 am I get… Read More


Quinn Memorial Building Entrance

I was so very unhappy with my previous office in the West Village of New York City. While a student at Stuyvesant High School in New York, I fell deeply in love with the West Village. Whether it was the diversity of the blocks that comprise the West Village; the outdoor cafes where we were… Read More


PRA's Travel HORROR Story Series (5)

Things are getting SPOOKY at PRA this October with the Travel HORROR Story series! If you’ve traveled, you’ve encountered hiccups — lost luggage, canceled flights, crummy food, the list is endless. Since PRA staff are some of the most well-traveled folks around, we have gathered a collection of truly terrifying travel stories for your reading… Read More


PRA's Travel HORROR Story Series (4)

Things are getting SPOOKY at PRA this October with the Travel HORROR Story series! If you’ve traveled, you’ve encountered hiccups — lost luggage, canceled flights, crummy food, the list is endless. Since PRA staff are some of the most well-traveled folks around, we have gathered a collection of truly terrifying travel stories for your reading… Read More


PRA's Travel HORROR Story Series (3)

Things are getting SPOOKY at PRA this October with the Travel HORROR Story series! If you’ve traveled, you’ve encountered hiccups — lost luggage, canceled flights, crummy food, the list is endless. Since PRA staff are some of the most well-traveled folks around, we have gathered a collection of truly terrifying travel stories for your reading… Read More


PRA's Travel HORROR Story Series

Things are getting SPOOKY at PRA this October with the Travel HORROR Story series! If you’ve traveled, you’ve encountered hiccups — lost luggage, canceled flights, crummy food, the list is endless. Since PRA staff are some of the most well-traveled folks around, we have gathered a collection of truly terrifying travel stories for your reading… Read More


PRA's Travel HORROR Story Series

Things are getting SPOOKY at PRA this October with the Travel HORROR Story series! If you’ve traveled, you’ve encountered hiccups — lost luggage, canceled flights, crummy food, the list is endless. Since PRA staff are some of the most well-traveled folks around, we have gathered a collection of truly terrifying travel stories for your reading… Read More


Cynthia Castaneda and Judge Anchondo

July was Minority Mental Health Month and it was an exciting time in El Paso, Texas.   Mental health was highlighted on July 16th, and several speakers discussed the importance of reducing stigma and increasing awareness of mental health and treatment in minority communities. At an event sponsored by El Paso’s local NAMI, Judge Anchondo, a… Read More


Ida Street Community Garden

For someone who is accused of eating too many salads, I have never considered myself much of a vegetable gardener. I am happy to take advantage of other’s bounty and frequent local farmers’ markets. However, last year my family became involved with Capital Roots based in Troy, New York. If you visit a local farmer’s… Read More


Prepared Breakfast

On the second Wednesday morning of every month, you can normally find me and about four or five of my colleagues cooking breakfast at Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless (IPH).  We arrive early, between 7:00–7:30 a.m., but much of the work occurred the night before – shopping; precooking pounds of bacon, sausage, potatoes; and printing… Read More


When my husband got orders to deploy in 2013, we did both the best and the worst thing we could have done. We decided that we would use the 90 days we had before he left to spend as much time together and make enough memories to get us through the 11-month tour. In our… Read More


Policy Research Associates, Inc. Logo

If you have browsed our website recently, you may have noticed that the PRA logo and website have a new look! As our last logo and website update was in the mid-2000s, we felt it was time for a refresh! This new redesign helps better reflect the high-quality work we are known for, and adapts… Read More


APPA Training Institute

I recently attended the American Probation and Parole Association’s (APPA) 40th Annual Training Institute. It was held July 12-15, 2015, at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites in Los Angeles, California. Many of the over one thousand attendees were APPA members from probation and parole departments throughout the country.  It was a group that I… Read More


ai weiwei exhibit

I had some time to kill in Casper, Wyoming, on June 16 and decided to visit the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center as I waited for Connie Milligan, a GAINS consultant who I was meeting for a trauma training in Laramie. (Why we were in Casper instead of Laramie is another story.) Casper was the… Read More


Lake George

On a recent Saturday, Ron and I took a hike up Sleeping Beauty Mountain on the east side of Lake George. We were on an access road walking back to our car, when I had a close encounter with a timber rattler! I knew in the back of my brain that they have a habitat… Read More


View of the redwoods

I recently returned from a wonderful trip to the Redwoods. Of course, the best part of the trip was spending a week with my daughter, Emily. Flying first class, courtesy of the PRA Holiday airline raffle, was wonderful as well. I could easily get used to traveling that way! Equally special to the time with… Read More


Birthday cake

Guest post by Deborah Dennis, former Project Director of the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center I read with tremendous nostalgia Kristin’s July 6 email to State and Local SOAR Leaders. Wow, SOAR is 10 years old this year…  I recalled so many incredible memories as I reflected on the 10th birthday of SOAR. I remember Michael Hutner,… Read More


Half peach

Where poor appetite meets lousy food describes my gloomy reaction to the lunch delivered to me last June 17, a beautiful sunny day and one day after I had been admitted to the hospital. I hadn’t ordered this lunch, but here it was: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing. I ate a few bites of… Read More


Grand Canyon

In December 2011, I was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme (Brain Cancer).  Although most only live 12 months – 15 months after diagnosis, I’ve been blessed and have lived longer than originally expected.  As a result, I decided to create a bucket list to experience all I could while I’m healthy.  The Grand Canyon was high… Read More


Policy Research Associates, Inc. Logo

I’m often asked by family, friends, colleagues, and business partners what PRA does.  It’s not necessarily a straightforward answer, as there are many different projects and lines of work going on simultaneously.  We don’t sell widgets and we don’t have a sales team, but we do have a unique brand that is highly specialized.  Being… Read More


Cellphone

As an intern at Policy Research Associates, Inc., my primary work has involved surveying prisons and jails around the country in order to find out about their use of the “Brief Jail Mental Health Screen”. I collect the data by calling different facilities around the country and asking to speak to someone who would be… Read More


Airplane

For two weeks in April, I was able to see a snapshot of three very different parts of the country: Washington/Oregon, Colorado, and Alabama. On April 1, I flew from Albany, NY to Portland, OR for a site visit in Vancouver, WA (no, not Vancouver, Canada). The Pacific Northwest has become my favorite area to… Read More


Pam Root is the Assistant Director of the SOAR TA Center at PRA. In addition to the incredible work she does helping individuals with medical impairments, mental health issues, or substance use issues experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, she recently completed the coursework necessary to become a Registered Nurse! We sat down with her to… Read More


Police

It seems like every week there is a new incident involving a police shooting or other intervention that kills a suspect.  Recently, it was Freddie Gray in Baltimore whose spine was severed during an arrest that resulted in his death.  A few weeks ago, right here in Albany, Donald Ivy was tasered by an Albany… Read More


Peas

Here in the northeast things are finally warming up, and for the third year in a row at PRA that means it’s time to plant our garden! In a narrow strip of land bordering our parking lot, employees take part in this worthwhile project, good for both body and soul. This year we have big… Read More


Comforting

May 7th is the 10th anniversary of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day! Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day is designed to address the needs of children and young adults with mental health or substance use challenges. The issue Why is a focus on children’s behavioral health so important? Childhood experiences affect our adult physiology in dramatic… Read More


Lily

I recently had a friend who took his own life.  He battled depression and alcohol for most of his life.  He attempted suicide a few times.  In his obituary it said, “Michael…, 54, of …, conceded to his struggle with lifelong clinical depression on March 30, 2015.” It was actually good to read that they… Read More


Beach

I grew up in an energy conscious household; my mom likes to say that we were green before it was cool. We have always abided by the reduce, reuse, recycle concept – we bring our reusable shopping bags wherever we go, we buy in bulk, and we are conscious about our power usage. I never thought… Read More


Norway

This fall, my boyfriend and I took a trip to Sweden and Norway to visit friends, hike, eat delicious food (Stockholm has a thriving restaurant scene), and experience a bit of the Scandinavian lifestyle. In Sweden, we saw the Vasa, a ship built in 1628 that was supposed to demonstrate the prowess of the Swedish… Read More


Campbell's Soup Cans

Header photo by FLICKR user Matthew Hurst Photo link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/skewgee/5003320372/ I recently checked out the stats on hunger in the U.S. (http://www.feedingamerica.org). In 2013, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households — 33.3 million adults and 15.8 million children. For the same year, 14 percent of households (17.5 million households) were food insecure, and… Read More


Service Members Marching

This blog was co-written by Lisa Guerin and Dan Abreu. An Introduction: Film producers Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry begin their acceptance speech at this year’s Academy Awards acknowledging the Crisis Center staff and the Veterans and families brave enough to ask for help:  “We want to thank the dedicated people at the Crisis… Read More


Flock of birds

In observance of national Social Work Month this March, I have been thinking about what it means to me to be a social worker. Every time someone asks me “what do you do?” I hesitate and have an internal debate. Do I tell them that I am a “social worker” and let them assume that I… Read More


Trees

In November 2013, I took my Day of Reflection at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, NY. The Arboretum is only 5 miles from downtown Albany, but feels worlds away from the urban hustle and bustle of the state capital.  It’s a peaceful place that allows for deep reflection and thought. I spent that day… Read More


Marathon

Michelle beat me to the finish line with her recent blog on running her first 5K. For a while now, I have been composing in my head a similar piece: a different “first,” but the same theme of appreciating the support I received. I shared a lot of nervous laughter with my sister when signing… Read More


Blades of Grass

Even though I hate getting my hands dirty, I am known as a “crunchy granola” person in the office, which is understandable. My boyfriend works for a biotech business, I recycle and compost religiously, I shop at farmers’ markets, and I try to be conscious of the products I use and recognize their impact on the… Read More


CIT Mom License Plate

While conducting an Early Diversion site visit in Connecticut on January 14, 2015, Brian and I parked next to a vehicle with license plates that read, “CIT MOM.” As soon as we saw the license plate, we knew we had to find out more about the car’s owner, and hoped that they would be present… Read More


Geechee Gullah

I was about 7 years old when I heard this woman ask my father, “You gwon Geechee ah Gullah?” I grew up with a clear understanding the there was something different about the Geechee and Gullah people.  The distinction was often identified by the accent that didn’t sound quite Southern and didn’t sound quite Caribbean,… Read More


Daisy

Before I get started, I want readers to understand that this is not a story of defeat, but instead it is a mostly a story of victory after overcoming enormous odds.  I started to do this story anonymously but realized that I would only be perpetuating the shame often felt by trauma survivors and their… Read More


Declaration of Independence

“Radical Words” – seems like a fringe call to action. That’s precisely what the historical documents (all originals) on display this fall at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA are – radical. They intended to fundamentally change the political order, and they did. The Magna Carta is the touchstone of modern democracy and the… Read More


Marathon

I ran my first 5k this year!  As I re-read that statement, I am amazed because at 47, I spent 46 and half years convinced that I would never be a runner.  Since I was a kid in gym I hated running.  In high-school my older brother, home from college, encouraged me to run with… Read More


PRA's Year in Review Blog Header

It’s been another incredible year at PRA, full of “transitions” – our 2013 word of the year. The most notable transition at our annual State of the Firm was the orator – our new CEO, Pam Robbins, delivered the speech for the first time instead of our President and founder, Hank Steadman. This year, Pam… Read More


A Quilter’s Getaway weekend located at a once popular Dirty Dancing-esque resort in the Catskills is not something you would expect a 20-something to attend. Of the 16 women who attended the weekend, the average age ranged from 65-70, with an outlier at 83. But I have a hobby that most 20-somethings would consider odd,… Read More


silhouette of person in sunrise

This post was originally published on 12/02/2014 to the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center’s SOAR Voices blog. Read more blogs like these at their website. In October 2014 I became the newest member of the SOAR TA team. It is really exciting to be working on a project that helps people across the country in such a… Read More


Blades of Grass

Two Facebook posts I have read over the last couple of weeks helped me put into words a concept that is often hard for people look like me, a white male, to understand—the concept of white privilege. As a white male, it’s easy not to think about how my “whiteness” affords me certain “privileges” that… Read More


Flock of birds

“Why do they burn their own communities?” I have been asked this question a dozen times today alone. I have been asked by friends, family, co-workers, and church members. I know many of you have the same question, but may not want to ask or feel that you can’t or don’t have the right to… Read More


Guitar

When I got to work on November 13, there was an e-mail from my wife with an announcement about a performance at The Linda. The show featured a group of songwriters who have been working with veterans to put their stories to music. Kathy knew I liked live performance and that the veteran focus would… Read More


Labryinth

Walking a labyrinth is an ages-old form of meditation, pilgrimage, and repentance. The most well-known labyrinth is in Chartres Cathedral outside of Paris, built around 1200 (pictured above). Many labyrinths are modeled from this design and are in or around churches. However, their purpose today has extended beyond religious seeking, and they are often walked… Read More


American Flag

I am a wife of a veteran, a daughter of a veteran, a granddaughter of a veteran, a niece of a veteran, and a cousin of a veteran. I am a veteran. Serving in the military runs through my blood. Yet, I hardly stop to think about what that means to me. On the surface,… Read More


American Flag

The Suicide Prevention Implementation Academy – the longest and largest Implementation Academy of the year, and I was asked to facilitate! In this role, I was asked to guide three state delegations, each composed of seven to nine delegates, through the implementation process to create a comprehensive and coordinated suicide prevention implementation plan. I don’t… Read More


Doctor's kit

Have you arrived to your meeting or training site and the AV equipment is nowhere to be found? How about your supply box sent by PRA? Didn’t arrive due to freak storm? Discovered the walls are painted in gold? No markers allowed!! How about only 5 wrinkled Flip Chart pages? LCD projector bulb out?  Clicker… Read More


Vietnam

‘Do you have a best friend?’ ‘Well, I used to.’ My friends and I exchanged glances.  What could our 18-year-old tour guide possibly mean by ‘used to‘? ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Oh, she was stolen.’ Maybe she didn’t understand the meaning of stolen.  After all, English was her third language – after Hmong and Vietnamese. … Read More


American Flag

On June 19, 2014, President Obama presented the Congressional Medal of Honor to Kyle Carpenter, 24.  Mr. Carpenter was selected as a recipient because of his heroic actions in Afghanistan in 2010 when he threw himself on a grenade to save a fellow Marine.  Kyle sustained significant injuries that are evident in his pictures and… Read More


Trophies

In August Policy Research’s Matt Canuteson was awarded the prestigious SAMHSA’s Voice Award for consumer leadership. He joins Policy Research’s LaVerne Miller in this distinction, who was honored with the award in 2010. To think of it: two staff of one small company in one large country have now won this national award! The SAMHSA… Read More


Teens standing by wall --- Image by © Image Source/Corbis

By Joseph J. Cocozza, Ph.D., Director of the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Associates, Inc. and co-lead of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Youth in Contact with the Juvenile Justice System Task Force The suicide rate among American youth is alarmingly high, and the rate for justice-involved… Read More


DNA

I was recently in the Los Angeles area for work, and I had made plans to meet a woman who I know only through our e-relationship. We’d never met in person but are FB “friends” and have shared stories and photos. As we were waiting in the bar for our table, a woman asked, “Are… Read More


Flock of birds

The GAINS Center interviewed Ann-Marie Louison and Bradley Jacobs, co-directors of the Adult Behavioral Health Programs at CASES in NYC, about Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT). Mr. Jacobs oversees the Nathaniel ACT Alternatives To Incarceration (ATI) program, Manhattan ACT, and a supported housing and diversion program for individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes. Ms. Louison joined… Read More


Parent Child

Sentencing laws on both the federal and state level have not only increased the numbers of individuals incarcerated in prisons and jails, they have resulted in an increase in the number of minor aged children impacted by the incarceration of a parent.  Many policymakers are increasingly focusing their attention on the impact that incarceration has upon… Read More


German Shepard

At the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) Victims Committee meeting in November 2011, I attended a fascinating presentation by Courthouse Dogs on the use of facility dogs in the courtroom. I had never heard of using a dog to calm victims and witnesses. As I listened to the presentation, I thought about how having a… Read More


Airplane

During a trip to Paris last month, I was struck by the number of apparently homeless individuals who were sitting against buildings and near the streets, particularly those with babies and small children. While data concerning total estimates of homeless people is lacking, the French national statistics office reported a 50% increase in homelessness in… Read More


City Blur

At the NJ Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association’s (NJPRA) annual conference this fall, there was an urgent plea to attend a training to become a NJ Family Care (formerly Medicaid) Application Assister, similar to Navigators.  I knew that NJ government decided to expand Medicaid. But, I didn’t really grasp who many people would be newly eligible.  By… Read More


Women wearing high heels

As the second of three sisters, I am well accustomed to life in the middle.  It’s been a long time since I’ve lived with my sisters, but the lessons learned from being at neither extreme – oldest nor youngest – have stayed with me. I tend to look at life from both sides, rarely straying… Read More


Blades of Grass

It’s 4:00 a.m. Some habits die hard and some, I’m learning, never die. My first clue that I was retired was when the secretary ushered me into my financial planner’s office with a completely serious, “Leaving for warmer weather and some shuffleboard this winter?” As a child of working class parents and grandparents (and farmers… Read More


Supreme Court

The GAINS Center interviewed Judge Christine Carpenter, Circuit Judge of Division One in the 13th Judicial Circuit, Columbia, MO about what it’s like presiding over a trauma-informed court. Judge Carpenter is the supervising judge for the 13th Judicial Circuit Alternative Sentencing Courts: Adult Drug Court (since 1999), Mental Health Court (since 2003), Re-Entry Court (2007-2013),… Read More


Airplane

Gelato for lunch. I thought, no I felt, I had earned it. I am in the midst of one of the stretches of travel that you have to face day by day; otherwise, you might scream, or worse. Other than counting on a good breakfast at the Silver Diner, I find BWI is just a… Read More


Fireworks

As has been the tradition at PRA for 8 years, the word of the upcoming New Year was revealed by Hank Steadman, President of PRA, during his State of the Firm address on the day of our company holiday party.  And this year’s word is…TRANSITIONS!  Here are some transitioning moments PRA is about to experience… Read More


Conference Room

Alternatives 2013 – A 500-person conference covering practically all aspects of the recovery movement; and there I was, right in the middle of it and ready to learn all that I could.  Never before had I been in a room full of so many people who wanted to talk about mental health and were unashamed… Read More


American Flag

Last month we heard a presentation from the Marines on the SMVF TA Center team who provided us with additional insight into their perspectives and experiences.  As a civilian, I have always found it helpful to hear from service members, veterans, or their family members because the fact is, from the moment they enter the service,… Read More


Gingerbread Housing

I was recently invited to attend the 2013 Homeless and Travelers Aid Society (HATAS) Home Sweet Gingerbread Home – Evening in Winter Wonderland. This event is an annual fundraiser for the local, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ending homelessness in Albany County (http://www.hatas.org/). HATAS was established in 1983 and has assisted over 155,000 households in need… Read More


Flock of birds

When I graduated high school my parents gave me the Dr. Seuss book Oh The Places You’ll Go; this is a somewhat common graduation gift and at that point in your life everything seems possible.  October 21st marked the one year anniversary of my tenure at PRA; I can hardly believe it’s been over a… Read More


Airplane

In my first 10 months at PRA, I have gone on business trips to Alaska, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oregon, Tennessee, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Wyoming – and I travel relatively infrequently for the SMVF TA Center.  Through these trips, I have seen so much of America, and so many of America’s airports.  I’m one… Read More


City Blur

Auditory disorders are common disabilities among the general public; approximately 17 percent of American adults report some degree of hearing loss,[1] and 10 percent of adults report tinnitus[2] of a severity to seek medical attention.[3] Eighty percent of hearing loss affecting adults is sensorineural,[4] involving the inner ear, and is generally irreversible. Causes include acoustic… Read More


hobylogo

At PRA, we are fortunate to get a day of reflection each year to reflect on our careers, futures, and the path we would like to establish for ourselves. The great thing is, PRA encourages us to be as creative as we can with our days of reflection; some of us get massages, some go… Read More


Cornfield

Since my employment at PRA, I have visited several states in the Midwest.  I have visited Idaho, Missouri and Oklahoma to name a few.  As a lifelong New Yorker, my perspective of my county was north to south as opposed to east to west.  The most that I knew about the Midwest was that during… Read More


Handshake

Photo: Clasped Hands by Rhoda Baer for NCI/NIH – Public Domain image The Statewide Family and Consumer Networks Technical Assistance Center (FCN TA Center), operated by Policy Research Associates since 2009, is very excited to welcome and begin supporting 29 new Statewide Family Network and 15 Consumer Network Grantees (2013 cohorts below). These grants, providing funding up to $70,000… Read More


Blades of Grass

As I considered what I wanted to write for this month’s blog I drafted several concepts. Throughout the month, none of the versions felt right to me, and then yesterday, at the end of the Friends of Recovery-NY 2013 Rally for Recovery in Albany, I realized that I was trying to come up with a… Read More


Triathlon Swimming

  A triathlon is a multiple sport event involving the completion of three sequential endurance disciplines (swimming, biking and running). Triathlon in the United States has its roots set in Southern California and can be traced back to 1974. The early races were held in San Diego’s Mission Bay where a group of friends (runners,… Read More


Lily

Susan Stone was an employee of PRA for only a year or so.   For many years before that, her legal and psychiatric skills contributed to many site visits, grantee meetings, technical assistance events, and PRA social happenings.  She shared a love of horses with me and even took one of my retiring thoroughbreds off the… Read More


Pine tree

“Nuts” dealt with the impact of incest on a woman charged with murder. “Valley of Elah” dealt with a father’s quest to understand why his son, an Iraqi veteran, was murdered following his return home.  “Prince of Tides” explored the long lasting effects of trauma on Tom Wingo, who was the victim of a violent… Read More


Conference Room

“People fake a lot of human interactions, but I feel like I fake them all, and I fake them very well. That’s my burden, I guess.” – Dexter Morgan, Showtime’s Dexter (Manos & Cuesta, 2006) Fall semester of 2012, I wrote a paper entitled Psychopathy: A Study on Etiology, Treatment, and Future Implications for my… Read More


American Flag

At the annual Jail Diversion and Trauma Recovery – Priority to Veterans (JDTR) grantee meeting this year, each grantee site gave a brief report on their sustainability efforts. As expected, sites varied in terms of their challenges and successes, yet one observation became clear: the sites needed something innovative in their toolkits to kick their… Read More


Diverse high school students in the hallway

We now know that 65 percent to 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Many of these youth are detained or placed in the juvenile justice system for relatively minor, nonviolent offenses but end up in the system simply because of a lack of community-based treatment options… Read More


Tribal Policy Academy

On May 21-24, I was able to attend and help facilitate our Tribal Justice Policy Academy in Chandler, Arizona. The Policy Academy was focused on aiding eight tribes in developing a plan for alternatives to incarceration for adult tribal members who might benefit from jail diversion opportunities, and particularly strategies related to individuals with co-occurring… Read More


American Flag

“The climb will get steeper the closer we get to the summit.” – Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General (Ret.) Eric K. Shinseki Speaking at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference in May, Secretary Shinseki used these words to describe the work ahead of us if we intend to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015. We… Read More


Camera Lens

SAMHSA Definition of Recovery: Recovery is the process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. In the context of our work here at PRA, I think of the SAMHSA definition of recovery in light of behavioral health. Recently, I started thinking… Read More


Handshake

Photo: Clasped Hands by Rhoda Baer for National Cancer Institute, an agency part of the National Institutes of Health What do ALGEE and a koala bear have to do with mental health? I spent 5 days in Charlotte, NC learning just what a difference they both can make.   Mental Health First Aid USA is an interactive 12-hour… Read More


American Flag

The date was July 4th, 2005. I was floating in an undisclosed location off the coast of Iraq somewhere in the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Kearsarge. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit had been deployed for about four months at this time and we were getting to the point where we knew we were roughly… Read More


City Blur

The Statewide Family and Consumer Networks Technical Assistance Center (FCN TA Center) has been working closely with SAMHSA funded Statewide Family and Consumer Network grantees in an effort to inform them about the many changes that are occurring as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Part of this work involved… Read More


Blades of Grass

Last month we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the formation of the Cultural Competence Committee with a PRA seminar, “Cultural Competence at PRA: How Are We Doing?” In addition to providing a concise overview of the Committee’s formation and history, and reviewing past activities and the CC intranet page, we reviewed a list of the… Read More


Geocache

Jefferson City, Missouri; the site of my first Strategic Planning Session with the SMVF TA Center and surprisingly, the site of my first Geocaching expedition. After a long day of note taking as the state team assessed their behavioral health services for service members, veterans, and their families, our team retired to Arris Bistro for… Read More


Service Members Marching

I was incredibly fortunate to attend the Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) Policy Academy in Baltimore, Maryland earlier this month.  What an eye opening, valuable experience for me!  I am a “military brat” myself, so to meet and talk with current service members and veterans about military culture and the issues that they… Read More


American Flag

In Flander’s Field by John McCrae In Flanders Fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky, The larks, still bravely singing, fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead. Short days ago, We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were… Read More


Koosh Balls

Last month, I celebrated the milestone of 20 years of employment at PRA. I’ve worked for many employers in different places throughout my working career – some were not very enjoyable others were acceptable, but PRA has proven to be the most rewarding. I’ve learned so much here and continue to learn new things almost… Read More


Policy Research Associates, Inc. Logo

Policy Research Associates, Inc. was named the #1 small employer Top Workplace by the Times Union.  This is such an honor in the same year when we celebrate our 25th anniversary.  To go from five employees to 49 and have folks working here who feel that they work in a supportive and positive environment is… Read More


Man and woman talking

How do you incorporate recovery-oriented principles in therapeutic services/environments? This is a great question. There are a number of values and practices to consider. In order to keep it simple, let’s consider five important principles and just a few of the ways they can be incorporated into any therapeutic service and/or environment: Hope – that… Read More


Children playing

Although the issue of children’s mental health should a focal point year round, this May we should pay particular attention because it is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the world many children and adults are struggling with untreated mental health issues. The Child Mind Institute has begun a month long Speak Up for Kids… Read More


Gray Cancer Ribbon

December 23, 2011 is not a day I will ever forget – Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) Right Parietal Lobe.  Not words you hear every day and certainly not words you want to hear before you even turn 40.  But that is how my journey with brain cancer began.  Little did I know what that diagnosis meant… Read More


Diverse high school students in the hallway

Success in a juvenile mental health court – what is it? Most people would say that success in a Juvenile Mental Health Court (JMHC) is successfully graduating from the program or “reaching maximum benefit.” Most JMHCs have different steps or levels toward completion of their program with requirements such as passing drug tests, attending school,… Read More


Marathon

For those who don’t know a marathon is defined by Webster dictionary as a “long-distance race” usually 26.2 miles. However, the Olympic marathon distance was originally 24.8 miles. The distance was based on the Greek legend of Pheidippides, a Greek foot soldier, who was sent from Marathon to Athens (24.8 miles) to proclaim the victory… Read More


Conference Room

In the weeks leading up to attending my first National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (“National Council”) meeting, I frequently had a seconds-long panic that I hadn’t completed my presentation. That feeling passed as I remembered that I was going to the meeting as an attendee, not as a presenter (which is usually the case).… Read More


DNA

I sent my spit to 23&Me, a California-based “personal” genetics testing company started by two women. As I waited for the results, I felt like a kid waiting for the first day of school – part dread, part excitement. When I tell others that I have done this, there are two reactions – keen interest… Read More


Conference Room

The Annual Adult Treatment Court Collaborative “ATCC” Grantee Meeting took place in Bethesda, MD on March 13-15, 2013. This meeting convened participants from 11 SAMHSA-funded ATCC programs across nine states. A description of the ATCC goals and profiles of the 11 grantees can be found on the GAINS Center’s website. The meeting covered areas of… Read More


Fishing

Believe it or not some of us here at PRA find that being out in the cold walking miles across frozen lakes and drilling holes through 2-3 feet of ice to catch fish is a lot of fun. My experience has been that it’s not only a lot of fun, but it’s also extremely challenging.… Read More


Elephant

I have become fascinated by elephants. In mock preparation for my future fantasy career of working with these remarkable animals, I have been reading memoirs of conservationists who have devoted their lives to protecting and promoting the existence of this endangered species in its natural habitat. With every chapter I read, I become more convinced… Read More


iPad

On Sunday I had an appointment at the local “Genius Bar” to find out why my iPad is crashing. One of the Geniuses approached me and asked me what the trouble is with my iPad, and I explained the problem. He waved his hand over the screen, touching it here and there, and “voila,” he… Read More


Dancing

Through the nature of my work, I have been focused on “limitations of disabling condition”. Recently I attended a concert performance that challenged the viewer to consider conditions that some may see as disabling are merely “different abilities”. On January 19, 2013, I attended a performance at the 7 Stages theater in East Atlanta, Georgia. … Read More


Sunset

On Sunday, my uncle Stanley, my dad’s older brother passed away.  In the last weeks I have been reflecting on the time I spent with him and found myself sad at his loss but grateful and hopeful.  My sadness comes mostly because this man, who in his youth was described by my mom as “movie-star… Read More


Airplane

My fourth week of work at PRA saw me flying off to Denver to attend a SOAR train the trainer. The training was taught by my colleagues – Kristin, Pam and Jen but being the newbie on staff meant that I was a full-fledged participant! The week long training was intense, informative and invigorating! I was able to… Read More


Storm

During the Opening of the SOAR program in Rome, Georgia, participants were asked what they expected to learn from the training and to tell the group one “Wow moment” they’d like to share. Earl Gourdine introduced himself. He worked at Highland Rivers CSB. His wow moment, “I filed my taxes yesterday for the first time after never… Read More


Storm

Just last Friday, I scrambled with the rest of the neighbors scrounging for milk and bread while schools and banks closed in preparation for the “winter storm”. There were no rain drops. No precipitation. No gray skies. No roars of thunder or sounds of golf ball sized hale plucking the roofs of buildings. Saturday morning, I watched… Read More


Hike

In past years I’ve often incorporated my Day of Reflection into family matters, addressing work/life balance issues. For example, last fall my sister and I helped my mom prepare for a transition to a senior apartment community after my dad passed away.  This year I was determined to keep the day for “just me;” in the… Read More


Comforting

Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) is a reaction exhibited by individuals who indirectly witness or are exposed to a traumatic event, are impacted, and exhibit symptoms similar to that of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other trauma disorders. In other words, the individual experiencing STS did not experience the trauma first-hand, but was otherwise exposed and… Read More


Flock of birds

At the SOAR team meeting back in March 2012 we started brainstorming ways that we could engage with new communities and expand SOAR across the states in which we were already working.  We decided that the already existing HUD Continua of Care (CoC) structure would be a great way to reach out.  We released an… Read More


Flock of birds

The professional world is small in Albany and an organization’s reputation tends to get around.  So when I decided to start looking to further my professional career I knew I wanted to look at Policy Research Associates.  After talking to many current and former PRA employees and applying not once but twice I finally landed… Read More


Movie theater

I am very critical of movies.  I complain about excessive head shots, lack of reality, unnecessary length, and many more things.  It is seldom that I am as enthusiastic about a movie as I am about the one I saw last weekend, Silver Linings Playbook.  See it! Rarely have I seen a film that depicts mental… Read More


25th Anniversary

Today is a special day for all of us at Policy Research Associates. Fully 25 years ago, on December 31, 1987, PRA opened its doors for the first time. At that time we had five employees and one federal grant, an NIMH research grant to study the impact of the shooting of President Regan by John Hinkley… Read More


Fireworks

Each year on the day of our holiday gift exchange and party, Hank gives a State of the Firm address during which he reflects on the year behind us and contemplates the year ahead.  As has been the tradition for almost the 25 years PRA has been in business, these addresses are typically born from… Read More


Barbed Wire

Indirectly, studies have illustrated that recidivism risk can be measured across multiple domains of “quality of life” (QOL). Most studies that consider QOL’s relation to recidivism risk examine individual components of QOL, such as employment, mental health, substance abuse, poverty level, homelessness, social relationships, etc.; however, discussion rarely looks at QOL as the “big picture”.… Read More


City Blur

A few weeks ago I returned from the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association.  After attending a variety of sessions developed by the Mental Health Section of APHA, doing a presentation on a multi-site mental health courts project we are heading, and perusing the full program, I was further convinced that a public… Read More


Hands Holding NewsPaper

8:30 am            Sit down at my desk with a steaming cup of vanilla-flavored coffee and sort through my emails. After I finish with the emails in my inbox, I move onto the GAINS Center inbox. We get inquiries of all sorts – from how/where to get help for criminal-justice involved persons with behavioral health issues… Read More


Conference Room

The Northern Tier Providers Coalition (NTPC) held their 15th Annual Conference in Lake Placid, Nov 6-8.  The NTPC Coalition is composed of chemical dependency programs (treatment and prevention) and Community Service Directors of Essex, Clinton, Franklin Hamilton, Lewis, St. Lawrence Counties and the Akwesasne Reserve.  I have always found their conferences beneficial because of their… Read More


Cornfield

During a Sequential Intercept Mapping, a team of facilitators will guide a group of community stakeholders (representing behavioral health and criminal justice entities from all five intercepts) through a map of the five intercepts of the Sequential Intercept Model. During this process, the community identifies various paths that a person with mental illness or co-occurring disorder… Read More


Marine Corps

November 10th, 1775: “Resolved, That two Battalions of Marines be raised, consisting of one Colonel, two Lieutenant Colonels, two Majors, and other officers as usual in other regiments; and that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or inlisted… Read More


Handshake

Fellow PRA staff member Lisa Callahan and I recently had the opportunity to work with the NYS Office of Court Administration (OCA) and the Queens Treatment Court (QTC) on a project to identify trauma screening best practices and to pilot the use of the recommended screening instruments across all five parts of the Court:  Treatment… Read More


Barbed Wire

Relatively few of the diversion programs developed in response to the overrepresentation of people with mental illness in the United States criminal justice system have targeted initial arraignment or first appearance courts. In 2010, the Legal Aid Society piloted the Misdemeanor Arraignment Project (MAP) in New York City Criminal Court through funding from the Langeloth… Read More


Storm

With support from SAMHSA, PRA, and the National Center for Trauma Informed Care launched the After the Crisis initiative following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The key activities of the initiative were focused on the development of technical assistance strategies and support networks that are dedicated to addressing the long term mental health and trauma needs… Read More


Youth Skateboarding

Sitting through PRA’s Suicide Prevention for Community Corrections Professionals, I felt a comfortable distance since I do not work in probation or parole – I was interested but not affected. Or so I thought. The core message from this training is “ask.” If you suspect someone is considering suicide, ask him or her. Conquer your… Read More


Sun Shining on Field

The traditional Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) presents a framework for communities to examine the cross-systems “flow” of persons with mental health and co-occurring disorders as they come into contact with the criminal justice and behavioral health systems. Entities (i.e., such as law enforcement, hospitals, courts, jails, prisons, probation/parole, and community supports) within the systems are… Read More


Flock of birds

Last month I had the privilege of being the keynote presenter for Utah’s first consumer conference. The conference, called the Utah Peer Conference, was held on September 14th, 2012 and was a daylong event aimed at stimulating Utah’s consumer community. The event was a huge success, with over 150 participants, a lot for an organization… Read More


Supreme Court

On October 9, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in two death penalty cases in which mental illness is at issue – Tibbals v. Carter (Ohio) and Ryan v. Gonzalez (Arizona). Both cases involve defendants who were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. And, in both cases, the defendant’s mental illness was an issue at trial… Read More


Chalk

When I was in my early 20s, I became very good friends with a school art teacher. She was smart, funny, beloved by students and staff alike at her school. She showed her own work in area shows, including juried art shows (e.g., the Mohawk-Hudson Regional); participated in a well-known arts group; and sold many… Read More


American Flag

While most veterans will never come in contact with the criminal justice system, a significant proportion may come into contact as a result of the symptoms of mental illness, such as PTSD, mild cognitive impairment, and substance use. Many communities have found that targeted strategies such as veterans treatment courts are effective responses for balancing… Read More


Group of women

This past July I had the great opportunity to attend the National CONFERence on Behavioral Health for Women and Girls that was held in San Diego.  Sponsored by SAMHSA, the conference covered numerous topics pertaining to women and girls including: prevention, addictions, mental health, trauma, criminal justice and recovery.  There were so many inspiring speakers… Read More


Blades of Grass

Homeless courts are special court sessions for homeless defendants that resolve outstanding misdemeanor offences and warrants.  Several states are operating homeless court programs within their jurisdictions, including: California, Colorado, Utah, Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona and Washington. San Diego County started the first homeless court program in the country in 1989. In 2005, Houston’s Homeless Court was created uniting… Read More


GAINS SIM-2016v3

I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a Sequential Intercept Mapping of Albany (NY) County as part of the Albany County Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Project. The project is a partnership between the Albany Police Department, the Albany County Department of Mental Health and the Albany County Forensic Task Force to establish… Read More


Lake

Unplugging from technology seems for many to be either (a) impossible or (b) undesirable, so most people probably never try. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I always unplug for at least 2 weeks each August. Why is this beyond my control? Since I was 3 years old, I have spent my summer vacation in… Read More


Service Members Marching

The month of September has been designated suicide prevention and awareness month.  To support the goals and ideals of this national campaign, we need to focus on the suicide epidemic impacting our Nation’s service members, veterans, and their families. Historically, suicide rates have been lower for the military.  For the first time since 2008, military… Read More


Service Members Marching

Last week PRA staff traveled to Alexandria, VA for the 2012 Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Policy Academy meeting.  The meeting was an impressive event especially given the small window of time that was allotted for planning and preparation. In the end, all of those involved – PRA staff, presenters, subject matter experts, and… Read More


Service Members Marching

As part of ongoing cultural competence activities, PRA sponsors a film series where staff and their invited guests can participate in viewing selected films followed by a group discussion.  The most recent film selected by PRA’s Cultural Competence Committee was Ears, Open.  Eyeballs, Click, which presented “an unfiltered, fly-on-the-wall glimpse into the chaos and pain… Read More


Barbed Wire

It depends.   It depends on whether one asks this question as a criminal justice professional or as a behavioral health professional.  In this instance I am talking specifically about programs to divert persons with mental illnesses who usually have co-occurring substance use disorders. In the criminal justice (CJ) world, diversion is commonly used as a… Read More


Flock of birds

There were a lot of factors that influenced my decision to become a social worker. It was in part my hope to affect real change in the lives of the people who had been forgotten.  I am grateful that my work with the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center gives me hope, gives our communities hope and… Read More


Marathon

In a recent edition of the Albany Times-Union, a professor from Skidmore College wrote an op ed piece on the biased coverage of the 2012 Olympics by NBC.   He called it jingoism. The point being that the vast majority of all the events covered in prime time were events in which American athletes won medals—usually… Read More


Blades of Grass

dis•par•i•ty noun, plural -ties. lack of similarity or equality; inequality; difference: a disparity in age; disparity in rank What are the disparities that exist in the behavioral health system? Disparities in the behavioral health system exist when unjust inequities in access to and quality of treatment exist.  For example, Native Americans disproportionately experience PTSD and… Read More


American Flag

Negative media portrayals of veterans seem to be more common. Recent news headlines such as, “Police get help with vets who are ticking bombs” (USA Today, 1/26/12) and Dr. Phil’s recent show “From Heroes to Monsters” promote negative stereotypes of men and women who serve and are offensive and hurtful. As one veteran blogged on… Read More


Blades of Grass

All of us are affected by the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) whether we realize it or not.  At a recent family wedding, ACA was the topic of discussion at our table.  At our table of 10 cousins, we learned that we are all touched by this law in uniquely different ways.  When… Read More


GAINS SIM-2016v3

As a result of the 2012 SAMHSA’s GAINS Center Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM) solicitation, the GAINS Center conducted a unique cross-systems mapping at the Tribal community of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB)[1] in Northern Michigan. The SIM workshop brings together key stakeholders from local criminal justice and behavioral health systems in… Read More


Diverse high school students in the hallway

Treatment courts – also called “problem solving courts” – have been around for a decades. The purpose of these courts is to use the power of the criminal court to get at the heart of recurring problems, rather than simply cycle people over and over through the courts and jails. Most everyone has heard of… Read More


Service Members Marching

On June 28, 2012 the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS) ruled on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The ACA was undoubtedly one of the most polarizing pieces of U.S. legislation in recent history and the cornerstone of the Obama Administration.  While the ACA and the Court’s decision were at the forefront… Read More


Diverse high school students in the hallway

On June 27-28, 2012 the kick-off meeting for Improving Diversion Policies and Programs for Justice-Involved Youth with Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders was held in Bethesda, Maryland. More than 100 were in attendance for this event, including teams representing the eight states participating in this initiative: Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York,… Read More


Storm

One of the biggest challenges in jail diversion work is engaging misdemeanants, especially repetitive ones.  In addition to all the behavioral health issues they may have, there often is little incentive to opt into diversion programs when they are facing only time served or very short jail sentences.  It is often an ethical dilemma for their legal… Read More


Barbed Wire

Today, our nation’s correctional facilities face an unprecedented challenge: Meeting the needs of a drastically increasing number of older inmates.  The percentage of prisoners age 65 and older has grown by 67% percent in the past four years (Jacob & Valeria Langeloth Foundation, John Jay College, & Policy Research Associates, 2012).  According to a recent… Read More


Barbed Wire

Persons in jail are more likely to be homeless and not to have health insurance coverage upon jail admission and various studies document high prevalence of comorbid medical conditions. Yet upon release few have Medicaid coverage and/or ability to access timely behavioral health and health care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has the potential to… Read More


Diverse high school students in the hallway

The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, at Policy Research, Inc., and the Technical Assistance Collaborative are coordinating an initiative aimed at increasing the number of youth with co-occurring mental and substance use disorders diverted out of the juvenile justice system to appropriate community-based behavioral health services, and to reduce the inappropriate and… Read More


Flock of birds

As LaVerne mentioned in her Are You My Peer? blog post on 5/24, SAMHSA recently developed a working definition of recovery and established guiding principles that support recovery from mental and substance use disorders.  The following describes the components of this working definition through the lens of a person who is in long-term recovery from… Read More


Blades of Grass

Recognition of the high rates of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder among justice-involved individuals is vital.1  It is estimated that 85 percent of women in correctional settings have an early experience of physical and or sexual abuse.2  Other reports estimate even higher lifetime experience of traumatic events and show little difference between genders on the… Read More


Train

Just when many states and communities were beginning to figure out how to improve access to health and behavioral health services for justice involved persons with mental illness, the health care landscape is changing. With the support of federal initiatives such as the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Grants, BJA’s… Read More


Man and woman talking

Late last year SAMHSA issued a new definition of recovery and support services.  This definition includes peers with lived experience in the areas of mental health and substance use.  One of the unintended consequences of adopting this definition was to reopen the debate about who is a peer and what constitutes peer support in both… Read More


Storm

In these days of ever diminishing resources for public sector behavioral health services for justice-involved persons, there is a strong temptation to oversell jail diversion programs.  Unrealistic expectations can set the stage for perceptions of poor performance.  This tendency is often fostered by bad research methodology and by overly zealous advocates who are misled by… Read More


silhouette of person in sunrise

The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ), operated by Policy Research Inc., selected 10 sites to participate in a new training initiative designed to create sustainable mental health training capacity within state and local juvenile justice systems.  This effort, sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the John… Read More


Flock of birds

Recently there has been frenzy in the media over the idea of Homeless Hotspots– much of which many have been tweeted, blogged about, or posted to your Facebook page.  Whether this idea infuriates or intrigues you, most will agree one good outcome is the attention brought to the very real problem of homelessness in our… Read More