Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Worth Our Salt

Good morning.

I realize I haven't written in here in a while. I debate taking down the blogs altogether unless I can find topics for 30 blogs and write them out and then type them as I go along.

The debate is whether to be vocal as I know I will have critics. What can I tell you? I'm not a fan of peer-run respite care because I feel peers should be paid what they're worth and right now most peer advocates are paid minimum wage. When did it become acceptable to cut costs by paying peers minimum wage? Other professionals wouldn't dare be paid $7.60 per hour: they would draw a salary commensurate with their training and experience.

So when people say peer-run respite care will save millions of dollars I wonder if that's the best way to curb the rising cost of mental health care. For one: the U.S. government should regulate the price of prescription drugs. Nobody taking an atypical should have to pay hundreds of dollars a month on her drugs. This is the true inflated cost that causes mental health treatment to reach in the billions. The second reason for this figure is the revolving door syndrome: where peers revolve in and out of the hospital because they fail to take their medication. The cost of untreated mental illness in the form of people getting tossed in jail is another huge indirect cost of mental health care.

Now you see. Don't tell me that the cost of an inpatient hospital stay accounts for the bulk of fiscal mismanagement when it comes to treating people diagnosed with mental illnesses.

Pay peers what they're worth and not a penny less. That's the way I see it.

I'm not proud that other professionals tout the minimum wage of peers as the greatest cost-saving device in mental health care. This reinforces the stigma that prevents us from being given an equal role in society.

Besides everyone knows there are psychiatrists and MSWs who aren't worth their salt so until peers are paid equally I don't think we should accept minimum wage if we are worth our salt as advocates.

There. You see.

A wise woman told me the other day: "Don't be yourself for other people, be yourself for you." As in: help yourself first. There's a knee-jerk reaction that people who have recovered must become peer advocates. I will tell you: do what you want to do not what other people tell you to do. There's a job out there for you and it might not be as a peer advocate.

The dilemma with a peer being paid minimum wage to be an advocate is that she becomes a member of the working poor.

The solution is to be paid what we're worth as advocates.


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