Aurora Network celebrates its 15th anniversary

It all began in 2004 with the Mental Health Services Act — the idea of a grassroots, consumer-led organization joining with California counties to provide much-needed services to those struggling with mental health issues.

Could consumers of mental health services have a say in their own treatment and have connections with other consumers? And would such a system actually benefit those consumers? As the Lassen Aurora Network celebrates its 15th anniversary, the answer is a resounding yes.

Dr. Mark Ragins, well known for the development of his recovery model, said there are four stages to recovery: Hope, empowerment, self-responsibility and meaningful roles in life.

Jackie Musick, chair of the Aurora Network board, said, “When you see someone who gains hope and moves through the stages of recovery, it’s a miracle.”

Musick said the Aurora Network came about to provide services the county wasn’t providing.

“Our mission is to have a place where people who are suffering from mental illness can come and be supported by other consumers,” Musick said. “It’s like a consumer support group. People who suffer from mental illness tend to be isolated and have a hard time maintaining their wellness. So we have special support groups that encourage people to develop a wellness plan so if they begin to feel like their medicine wasn’t working or they were beginning to get depressed or whatever it might be, they’d know from their wellness plan what to do.”

Musick said people who are further along in their training and experience with their wellness plans can serve as peer supporters who can then help others.

The idea behind the process is people helping people.

“The philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous is a little bit like Aurora,” Musick said. “Consumers kind of took that philosophy from AA — that people helping people helped people get better. It’s important people be responsible for their own wellness because for a long time people didn’t really realize they could recover from mental illness.”

The Lassen Aurora Network is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that provides state-mandated peer-support services to the community through the Mental Health Services Act. The state’s Department of Mental Health directed the counties to develop five “essential concepts” to provide services, including community collaboration; cultural competence; client/family driven mental health system for older adults and transition age youth and a family driven system of care for children and youth; wellness focus which includes the concepts of recovery and resilience; and, integrated service experiences for clients and their families throughout their interactions with the mental health system.

The state reports the effort have resulted in “quantifiable improvements” in homelessness rates; entry rates into the criminal justice system; improvement for those suffering from illness; improvements in daily functioning; improvement in education rates; and, improvements in employment rates.

During its current contract year, Aurora has developed a custom management system at its Wellness Center using Salesforce.

Kam Vento, Aurora’s executive director, said thanks to statistics from Salesforce, he can report since July, 1, 2018, the agency has had 1,726 contacts with 348 individual clients, and 570 walk-in contacts with 64 different individuals. But Vento cautions these numbers are preliminary as the program’s tracking system remains under development.

According to those preliminary numbers, the organization recently provided services to 209 clients, including 68 needing peer support; 36 who needed training; it met with 20 seniors; provided services to 19 in women’s wellness; had 15 check-ins; 12 walk-in principiants; nine who joined the women’s tea; seven gentle yoga participants; six Family Time at the Movies participants (first-run movies shown every third Saturday of the month at the iibrary); six meditation participants; five who needed depression and anxiety counseling; and, five who participated in the exploring art program (from 1 to 3 p.m. the last Friday of the month).

For more information, call the Aurora Network at 257-3864.