Connecticut needs more mental health success stories to prove that mental health care is important and that it works. I am a success story. I have a fulfilling life.

I live with two severe mental illnesses, but despite these health issues, I am a college graduate and I’m studying for my master’s degree in social work. I’m a counselor with Bridges, a Community Support System in West Haven. I volunteer with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Connecticut). Far from being disabling, the experience of my health conditions inform my work in both of these activities.

I am lucky to have had the benefit of a supportive family and access to services. Some of my friends in recovery haven’t had that benefit. Why do these friends suffer, and live in a world that does not seem to accept them for the smart, able contributors they really are?

The answer is that we need to own up to is our ignorance of what makes a citizen of value. To enable a person with disabilities to contribute, as I have, health and social services need to be accessible to the complete spectrum of need. In order for our state to report more success stories, and rebuild itself into a powerhouse of healthy people, it must serve all equally.

Connecticut needs to commit funding to all community-based programs: housing, peer supports, food pantries, employment readiness organizations, and clinics where doctors, therapists, case workers and pharmacists work together as teams.

For example, one very effective and cost-effective investment is supportive housing for adults who are dealing with complex mental health or other health conditions or disabilities and who can take better care of themselves in a safe, stable home with individualized services and supports.

Community-based solutions work for individuals and families and work for the state budget, as waiting for people to exacerbate into crisis before getting help costs a lot more in human and fiscal terms.

This can only happen if the state adds more revenue to the budget for social services. Dollars already allocated and cut have to be reallocated to support the community life of people who are living with these health conditions and who are no less deserving than the rest.

We are all human. We need to rise to this challenge.

Diane Frost is a counselor with Bridges, a Community Support System.

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