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Building Community--Taking Action - October 15

Building Community--Taking Action

The Healing of One Person Benefits the Whole Community

Mental health treatment no longer is confined to an institution but continues in the community. A community-based system of services promotes self-determination, empowerment, recovery, and the highest possible level of community participation in work, relationships, and all aspects of community life. In this community and others, those who suffer from a mental illness learn how to stay healthy and how to minimize relapses through the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) started by Mary Ellen Copeland.

Jo-Amrah McElroy, M. Ed., will share her work experiences in the Virginia mental health system as Virginia helps to build community for those who are recovering from a mental illness. She will address the hopes and dreams for Virginia’s recovery movement and where it can go. She states, “Recovery from a mental illness involves more than recovery than the illness itself. People who have a mental illness have to recover from the stigmas of the illness, which people who have cancer and diabetes do not have to. They also have to recover from dashed dreams, hopes, and issues of self-esteem.” She also says that education is key in understanding a mental illness in order to reduce the stigma in our Virginia communities and remove the fear factor.

A Mental Health Planner with the Department of Mental Health Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services in Virginia, she is responsible for the Federal Mental Health Block Grant Application that brings the majority of federal money for mental health into the state. This money goes to Community Service Boards as well as consumer groups. Handling numerous contracts with various consumer owned and operated groups throughout the state as well as contracts with national groups such as MHA Virginia, she serves as the point person in the state for recovery. She travels the state promoting recovery. She is also am the support person from DMHMRSAS for the Mental Health Planning Council.

Scarlett Coffman Danraj, a Mental Health Residential Counselor in the Mental Health Supports Services Department with Valley Community Services Board will give her perspective on the role of the community in peoples’ recovery. She works closely with consumer peers who are transforming their lives and the lives of the community on a daily basis. This includes providing: assistance to consumer peers with tasks such as locating and maintaining stable housing; researching work training or further education opportunities; obtaining day supports within the community; understanding money management; outreaching socialization opportunities; interpersonal relationship building skills; support with dealing with alcoholism and drug usage; health needs management for psychiatric and medical; and assistance with overcoming communication barriers all while encouraging them to integrate into the community.

Additionally, Scarlett provides support by attending recovery based activities such as the North West Peer Support meetings, statewide VOCAL meetings, lobbying in Richmond for mental health, our local We Care NAMI meetings, and recovery trainings throughout the state. She also serves as a board member for the Valley Recovery and Resource Center, a consumer-run program for the Staunton, Waynesboro, Augusta County, and Highland County area. This group provides support from peers for peers as they work to abolish stigma within their community. I work as a liaison between consumer peers and community members. I teach consumer peers to communicate openly and independently with such community members, thus eliminating the role of a liaison. She states, “I am privileged to see growth and transformation first hand on a daily basis. I am able to support individuals who are experiencing feelings and emotions, in some instances, for the first time, and am blessed to share in their joy and excitement!”

Scarlett was born and raised in Augusta County, graduating from Stuart Draft High School in 2001. After high school, she attended Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, graduating in 2005, majoring in psychology and minoring in women's studies and sociology. After college, she came home to be close to family and started working in VCSB’s Residential program two weeks later.

The MHA-A Board of Directors looks forward to seeing you at our Annual Meeting Dinner and Silent Auction on November 16 at the Holiday Inn Golf and Conference Center. Reservations are required by November 8. Call 886-7181 / 949-0169 or All proceeds fund our many programs and services highlighted in this newsletter. “We are delighted to host this annual event featuring mental health workers helping to build community. said Donna Gum, MHA-A Executive Director.”

Donna H. Gum
Executive Director
Mental Health America of Augusta

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