Profile in Advocacy
I'm delighted that Jessica Herrmann, is my
Profile in Advocacy
Jessica is the Contracts and Grants Team Leader at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Use Services. She began her career in the field of mental health and substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery 25 years ago. Jessica holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Human Resource Development. She is a recovery ally and has experience working directly with individuals and their families with lived experience and has worked on a macro level to improve quality systems and operations throughout the state of North Carolina.
Advocate, from Latin
means "one called to aid (another)”. What moves you to aid others in this way?
People in recovery or seeking recovery are often in emotional pain and are vulnerable. It’s incumbent upon all of us to advocate with them and to be an additional voice. Advocacy has two secondary effects as well. It helps reduce and remove stigma and it opens a door for people needing care to approach you with questions and resources.
What’s the single most important character trait that makes an effective advocate?
The single most important character trait that makes an effective advocate is the ability to convey an empathetic view for the condition. Helping people understand that substance use disorder hijacks the brain and is a chronic condition, not unlike diabetes or cancer is important. Would we reject a person seeking help for diabetes because they continue to eat poorly? No, we would not.
Share with us an advocacy story from your work – one in which you are most proud or where you learned the most.
One of the residential programs funded by DMHDDSAS was training the individuals in their care about recovery messaging (language) and how to tell their story to someone effectively. In addition, they taught them about the “
Recovery Bill of Rights
” by Faces and Voices of Recovery so that they could advocate for better care themselves. I was so proud of this agency and the work they were doing to enhance and improve care. This also meant that the individuals in the residential program could speak out about the care they were receiving at the moment. They became empowered and were learning to advocate for better health and wellness.
When you look back, how will you measure your success as an advocate?
Success will be measured by the removal of stigma to this condition, the reduction of barriers to treatment and non-clinical recovery supports, and by people driving their own treatment and choosing their recovery supports. Stigma causes further shame to a condition that is already plagued by shame. People won’t ask for help if they feel fear and shame. Stigma reduction is demonstrated by how we speak about substance use disorders and those it affects.
Language is important
. In addition, we will be successful if we can reduce barriers to care, such as an inability to pay for treatment. Medicaid expansion would be a step towards helping people access care by offering a payment mechanism. Evaluation of communities and a true analysis of what works well for individual communities will be key to creating the right care and supports.
Expanding robust recovery-oriented systems of care within communities is important, but it must be emphasized that this cannot and should not occur without individuals in recovery, their families and allies at the table to drive decisions. Individuals must be able to choose what type of care meets their needs and should be offered a menu of options.
Tomato-based or vinegar?
I am a vinegar person all the way but appreciate and love those who choose tomato.
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Profile in Advocacy
, do let me know.
Until next time,