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Ambar: Looking to the Future

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Ambar first experienced hearing voices while abroad in Spain, and at 19 she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. With the help of family, friends, OnTrackNY and other support programs she was able to return to school and in the future aspires to write a book about her experiences.

Why I Share My Story

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As we prepare for the share our new OnTrackNY films, let's take a look at why previously featured participants have decided to share their stories.

OnTrackNY Family Council

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We are glad to share that OnTrackNY has successfully launched a Family Advisory Council. The Family Advisory Council offers an opportunity for family members of OnTrackNY participants to give feedback on program services and materials, and share ideas on how to better involve families in OnTrackNY programs. We have had 3 meetings thus far, and look forward to continued involvement from family members who are offering thoughtful feedback and ideas for the future.

The Family Advisory Council is open to family members of current and former OnTrackNY partici-pants. If you are a family member who is interested in joining, or would like more information about the Family Advisory Council, please contact Sarah Piscitelli at: Sarah.Piscitelli@nyspi.columbia.edu or by phone at 646-774-8432.

What is A Peer Specialist?

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One of the most exciting and innovative parts about the OnTrackNY program is that we have Peer Specialists working on our teams who have struggled with similar issues to the young people using our services. That means they’ve also been diagnosed with a mental illness and they’re doing well enough in their lives to hold down a job and work on a clinical team.

Peers Specialist who work at OnTrackNY help participants make sense of their experiences, become aware of their options, and ultimately increase their ability to make informed choices. But we also pro-vide a kind of connection and support to participants that is very hard for clinicians to provide in their roles: peer support. “Peer” means we are equal with the other person, we are not there to diagnose and clinically assess, we are not there to prescribe anything. Peer Specialists build relationships based on mutuality and reciprocity. Sometimes peer support is just about having another person to talk to who understands, but it can also mean having someone to help navigate the system and build connections with other team members.

Peer Specialists get to bring with them all of the tools they’ve learned to stay healthy, whether it’s through communication or exercise or healthy eating, or leading art or hip-hop groups. It’s so easy to feel alone in this world, especially when you’ve been told you have a “mental illness”. Knowing there are lots of other people who have struggled like you struggle and are living their dreams is incredibly powerful. And there are networks of peers all over the country. The peer role is very creative innovation that shapes the culture of our teams. Having someone sitting at the table with the other team members who’s experienced the hardship of diagnosis and navigating the system themselves brings a lot to the culture of the team.

The best people to be Peer Specialists on OnTrackNY teams are people who’ve been through the OnTrackNY program them-selves. Have you been through OnTrackNY as a participant? Are you interested in being a Peer Specialist. Let us know…

Sascha Altman DuBrul
Recovery Specialist and Trainer
OnTrack Central
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