By Crystal Bell, CPSS

I thought that transitioning from a CMH to a FQHC would be somewhat challenging, but it has emerged into a second nature for me. Being a consumer in CMH, it had become familiar but once I had become a peer, it felt very normal. At the time, CMH’s were dealing with Mental Illness issues and/or what they later defined Co-Occurring Disorders. My background made me a perfect fit, and I had already built relationships with both staff and consumers. In the past I thought I was somewhat of an introvert, making it uncomfortable to build relationships, but the environment at AHC has made it comfortable for me to connect, support and assist.

Coming to work for an FQHC so far has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience. It has allowed me to get out of my comfort zone, hence aid me in my own personal recovery. And not just what I may have I learned, but what I am continuing to learn make me comfortable to support, assist and encourage the people we serve.  I appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given. The mere fact that this program has never used peers is big, so we get to serve in a capacity that ago didn’t exist until recently.

The thing is that this process will happen over time and not overnight, because in my experience I have learned that recovery is not a race. I will do my best to serve our patients, with their participation. I believe peers are effective in this environment because of the identification and the transparency we can provide hope to those who can sometimes feel hopeless.

I came to AHC comparing the differences in CMH vs FQHCs. The only difference I see is that CMH focus was on Mental Illness and Co-Occurring, working on becoming integrated with other services and was designed to supplement and decrease the need for more costly inpatient mental health care delivered in hospitals. CMHs were also designed to provide comprehensive services for people with mental illness, locating these services closer to home. FQHCs are to integrate mental health into an already exiting service model, whose intent is to help make healthcare available in communities and to individuals where it might be difficult or otherwise impossible utilizing traditional fee-for-service, captivated pay methodologies.

While both entities are valuable in their respective roles, I am confident that I am in the right place, at the right time and doing the right thing.