On Our Own began in 1990 when some mental health consumers met to discuss unmet needs in our area and to advocate for needed changes. Based on our own experiences, we had found that treatment often meant coercion, lack of choices, and frightening experiences within hospital settings. After much discussion, we submitted a grant proposal to establish a drop-In center.
We are part of a consumer movement that began to flourish in the 1940’s when many self-help and civil rights organizations formed. We offered peer support, a telephone, a free cup of coffee, and a comfortable couch in a small downtown storefront. There was no money for paid staff. In the first few months, about 10 people came daily, increasing to about 30 people within the first year. Since 1990, On Our Own has moved four times, each time to a larger place where we could provide additional services.
Several years ago, our philosophy changed from a peer-run drop-in center to a peer-run recovery center. Now, we have a full-time executive director, a hospital liaison, …. We serve 50 people daily and are open seven hours a day, Sunday through Saturday. To aid in a person’s recovery, we now require a commitment to a program enrollment after three casual drop-in visits.
We provide a number of structured programs to help people develop holistic plans for setting and achieving goals, and leading responsible, meaningful lives:
- WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). The WRAP group helps participants develop an individualized plan to maintain their recovery and develop a crisis plan should the need arise.
- IWP (Individualized well-being plan). IWP educates and assists participants in managing mental illness, and working towards independence and individual empowerment with the aid of a personal advocate.
- Goals Group (Peer support group). We have a weekly goals group as part of our peer support group. We share in the challenges and celebrate the triumphs of reaching and achieving our goals.
On Our Own partners with mental health service providers such as Region Ten, UVA, and Western State Hospital. We educate our participants about other programs provided by community- based social service agencies, and health care and substance abuse programs.
Western State Hospital Liaison: Our hospital liaison works to establish rapport with patients at Western State Hospital. The liaison offers hope and respect to hospitalized people through peer support groups and one-on-one visits. The liaison also educates patients about options, programs, and services available upon release. After discharge, the liaison remains in contact with and provides support to the ex-patient as he or she transitions into society.
Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH)
The PATH program helps people navigate the mental health system and receive appropriate services. It also provides the opportunity to build rapport with people who are not engaged in traditional MH services.
Intensive Services Team (IST)
The IST program provides peer support to an existing mental health caseload at Region Ten community services board.
In addition to offering support and a place to belong, we will attempt to provide information and referrals for housing, food, clothing, furniture, transportation, medical or psychiatric services, job searches, veteran’s benefits, social security, or food stamps— whatever is needed and requested. We coordinate with our Region Ten partners, local police, hospitals, therapists, rehabilitative services, and regional psychiatric hospitals. Staff and On Our Own volunteers serve on boards of various state and local organizations where we learn and share experiences.