For the past four years, Janian Medical Care has gathered a group of formerly homeless men and women who received its psychiatric services to bring their experiences to the table to better connect, engage and support others facing similar situations. Part of Janian’s Project for Psychiatric Outreach to the Homeless (PPOH), the group known as the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) conducted a winter outreach on December 16th at The Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea with a remarkable turnout.
Daniel, a three year CAB veteran, explains it best, saying “It’s my way of giving back; I was on the other side of the table for many years. CAB plays an important part trying to reach out to people, especially the mentally ill homeless.”
Not long after their summer health fair at the church, Daniel suggested they hold another fair during the winter months. “When it’s cold, people want to get out of the elements for a while which makes it really important for us to be doing this,” he explained. The CAB team was able to partner again with The Church of the Holy Apostle and provide information to guests coming for lunch at the daily soup kitchen.
In addition to newly updated mental health, primary medical care, housing resources and referral information, the CAB team handed out small care packages with socks, gloves, a hat, hand warmers and hygiene kits. When the doors opened at 10:30 am, people poured in looking for help with housing, legal aid, psychiatric care and a new pair of socks. In less than an hour, 120 care packages had been handed out and countless connections were made.
Daniel is quick to point out that even after all of the care packages are distributed and lunch service wraps up, they aren’t finished. “We leave our materials in the office so our job doesn’t stop when we leave, people need that information.”
The CAB team is already hard at work planning for upcoming events, including a round-table where they will discuss mental health treatments with Janian psychiatrists and doctors to better inform the care they offer to future clients. As for Daniel, he’s already brainstorming about the next mental health fair and what CAB can do to make it even better the next time around.
In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” late author Harper Lee wrote, “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” This phrase has many versions but they all boil down to the same idea: it is complicated to understand what a person is undergoing if you haven’t undergone it yourself. This idea of empathy and shared experience is in the foundation of the PPOH Consumer Advisory Board and it’s an honor to have them with us.
Find out more about Janian Medical Care here.