2012 Year End Review

2012 Year End Review

Empowerment Exchange Building

A program of the Mental Health Empowerment Project

The Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc. (MHEP) is a not-for-profit corporation organized in 1988 to develop and strengthen self help and mutual support activities throughout New York State.  For over twenty years, MHEP has placed high value on helping people connect with their personal power and the collective power of self-help.

As people who have been given a psychiatric diagnosis, we share a deep under-standing of our common challenges and concerns as well as our own recovery strategies and successes. Personal experience puts the staff of MHEP in a unique position to mentor others on the benefits of peer support and on how to become more independent through active community membership.

Empowerment Exchange Building

MHEP’s programs in Rensselaer County are operated through “The Empowerment Exchange”.  The Empowerment Exchange is a peer support program dedicated to offering strategies that will encourage people to find their personal power, use their own unique voice to get what they want or need and to identify steps that will help them move out of the mental health system. We believe that recovery is possible for everyone. At the heart of our work is the knowledge that people can and do reclaim their life and their independence.
Highlights from 2012


  • Provided support and advocacy to peers in family court and empowered them to effectively navigate the family court system on their own.
  • Assisted peers in Fair Hearing cases at DSS.
  • Assisted peers applying for Social Security Disability and Social Security  appeal processes.
  • Provided (two) ten day Peer Advocacy Trainings to prepare peers and volunteers to work in the field of peer support.
  • Collaborated with Samaritan Hospital inpatient discharge planning on behalf of people who were hospitalized on both BHU and MICA Units.
  • Organized and/or helped revive tenants groups at Monument Square Apartments, Hill Street Inn and Lansing Inn. These groups are now creating a stronger sense of community and self-advocacy with tenants.
  • Helped residents connect with resources such as United Tenants of Albany, Legal Aid, and the NY Civil Liberties Union.
  • Advocated for peers in court against eviction and within agencies, evictions have been overturned.

Peer Support

  • The Empowerment Exchange hosts a confidential, non-crisis support line that is operated by individuals in all stages of recovery.
  • Empowerment Exchange now has office hours at the Rensselaer City Clinic.
  • Diverted many people to the Empowerment Exchange for peer support as an alternative to going to the Emergency Room and made home visits with peers to divert crisis.
  • Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) – WRAP planning is offered by certified WRAP facilitators at the Samaritan, Rensselaer & Hoosick Falls Mental Health Clinics, The Empowerment Exchange and the YWCA. A WRAP Day of Dialogue was also held.
  • Samaritan Hospital Collaborations – MHEP staff and volunteers became certified NE Health volunteers. Staff also continue to facilitate inpatient unit support groups and began a pilot program where peer support and advocacy is offered in the Samaritan Crisis Unit.
  • Volunteers – Through volunteering at The Empowerment Exchange, individuals achieve a variety of personal goals like: preparing to return to work or school, connecting with others in a meaningful way, and accessing a range of peer support and advocacy training from MHEP and other sources. Empowerment Exchange has increased its pool of active volunteers to approximately 30 people in 2012.
  • Wellness Companion Series – Integrating Physical and Mental Health – This project creates opportunities for people to form natural friendships and support networks around health issues like Diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Our ‘Diabetes Discussion Group’ started in August with a nutritionist holding cooking classes, followed by discussion groups led by a registered nurse that focused on living healthy with diabetes. This series will continue in 2013 as it will expand into other health related topics.
  • Bilingual (Hispanic) Self-Esteem Group – Our first self-help group offered and publicized in the Spanish language.  This group began in October, and is facilitated by two trained bilingual volunteers.

Community Connections

  • Developed relationships with non-mental health related clubs, community based organizations, businesses, and faith based organizations that create opportunities for peers to connect to these naturally occurring resources.
  • Assisted peers in developing alternatives that empower them to be more independent, like learning to navigate the bus system
  • “Our Voices – A Coffee House Experience” Provides a safe forum for peers to display their musical, artistic, and poetic talents in a public, open microphone venue. Creates opportunities for peers to mix with other community members in an environment that does not disclose their diagnoses. These events are held once a month. Two “Our Voices” were held at Angie B’s in the City of Rensselaer in 2012.
  • Created and Supported “Let’s Go Out” – a group of volunteers who have developed close personal bonds and set up recreational activities to do together while inviting people from the community to join them.  They have organized picnics at Grafton State Park, gatherings at Troy Night Out, bowling outings and group based public transportation training (without paid Empowerment Exchange staff).
  • Created and supported the development of a ‘Men’s Network’ that nurtures the development of natural male friendships that results in crisis support (self- sustaining, without paid Empowerment Exchange staff).

Dual Recovery Peer Support Services

  • Linked people with substance abuse and mental health diagnoses to self-help and other natural supports and resources.
  • Trained and supported people to facilitate dual recovery groups.
  • Provided education on rights, responsibilities, processes, and procedures in the mental health and substance about systems in which people are engaged.
  • Created and supported community, clinic and hospital based Dual Recovery Anonymous groups.

2012 Report of Deliverable Units of Service

Units of Service achieved in 2012 10,716
Units of Service Monthly Average in 2012 893
14.7% increase in Units of Service from 2011
Unit Break down per category for 2012
Self Help, Groups, & Events: 6117
Peer Support Line: 1426
Boards and Committees: 16
Outreach:   1377
Self-directed Recovery: 678
Peer Companion: 370
Advocacy: 581

Pie Chart

*This category includes all self-help groups and events like Our Voices and trainings.