Monday, 06 April 2020

Letter to Board of Directors Re: Closing of 2nd Story

Dear Bruce, Greg, John, Zach, Ryan, and Erik,

My name is Sera Davidow. I am the Director of the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (RLC), home to Afiya Peer Respite. Afiya opened in August of 2012, following years of advocacy and research on how to build the most effective peer respite possible. During that period of research, 2nd Story was one of a small handful of peer respites that I personally visited.
I learned recently of the proposed closing of 2nd Story, and I’m left with a feeling of both sadness and confusion. On the heels of the CDC’s report that suicide rates are on the rise, and so many other tell-tale signs and symptoms speaking to the lack of efficacy of more conventional interventions, this is not the time to cut our most creative and innovative efforts. In fact, it is the time to build more.
We recently received a two-year grant that was based on a system’s transformation model designed by James Gottstein, Esq. called the ‘Transformation Triangle.’ The Transformation Triangle model says that real and lasting change happens via a three pronged approach:  1) change public opinion; 2) Build alternatives efforts; 3) Litigation/advocacy related to old approaches that don’t work or are causing harm. We’ve accomplished many things with the funds from that grant, but one of them was to publish a handbook on peer respite. 2nd Story is represented in multiple ways in the book, but most prominently: https://youtu.be/9x8h3LvEB04
1.       The book includes a lengthy interview with Adrian Bernard and Yana Jacobs about the development of 2nd Story
2.       The book highlights the impressive research study (the only one of its kind and an incredible gift to the peer respite community) conducted by Begin Croft and her colleague through Human Services Research International
I’d be happy to send you a free copy of the book if you’d like. (I’ll also be at the San Diego ‘Alternatives to Hospitalization’ conference in October with copies of the book if you happen to be there!) You can also access copies of the book on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Peer-Respite-Handbook-Understanding-Supporting/dp/1478792647), Barnes and Noble, etc. If you are less than fully familiar with the concept of peer respite and want a quicker way to learn more, you can also view our short film on peer respites here: https://youtu.be/9x8h3LvEB04
I guess I share all this because I find myself wondering why you would make the choice to cut a support that has had such positive impact not only locally, but nationally? If you cut 2nd Story, it reduces the strength of the peer respite movement across the country. It makes it less likely that other states who look at the incredibly successful research study on 2nd Story’s efficacy will take it seriously. You not only hurt your own community, but all of us.
As someone who oversees a support that was also threatened with being cut some years back, I’m also extremely aware that alternatives of this nature make up infinitesimal fractions of state mental health budgets. Given that 2nd Story is comparatively small potatoes in the budget department, and there is clear research demonstrating its efficacy (plus plenty of accompanying testimonials from real live people), how on earth can you justify putting it on the chopping block?
It’s not too late to change your minds. After the release of the following video and a number of other efforts, Massachusetts retracted their plan to cut the RLC by 50%: https://youtu.be/9kW_GcG_psY
What might it take to change your minds? The nation is watching.
Sera Davidow
Director, Western Mass Recovery Learning Community



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