Mental health care and recovery services have historically prioritized a clinical medical model. Under this model, expertise resided almost exclusively in the hands of professionally trained healthcare providers. Beginning in the 1960’s and 70’s, however, a recovery model emerged that put greater emphasis on the self-determination of “consumers” of mental health services and the expertise of individuals with lived experience of mental health challenges.  

This episode of Into the Fold was recorded onsite at PeerFest 2024 and guest hosted by Anna Gray and Janet Paleo. Anna and Janet are co-founders of Prosumers International, and Anna is also its executive director. Rooted in the belief that purposeful recovery is possible, Prosumers aims to create an empowering environment where people with mental health challenges can achieve recovery on their own terms. 

Anna and Janet spoke with Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the Hogg Foundation, to learn more about the Hogg Foundation’s support of a mental health recovery model that prioritizes the voices of individuals with lived experience. 


A New Model of Recovery 

“I wasn’t sure exactly what a peer was,” says Dr. Martinez. “But when I started to learn more and talk to folks with lived experience and understand lived experience as expertise, I felt that peer support was something we needed to continue developing at the Hogg Foundation. Stephany and Tammy helped transform the foundation and the way we’ve been running ever since.” 

Trained as a physician and psychiatrist under the conventional medical model, Dr. Martinez wasn’t trained in recovery. He knew little about the peer recovery model and its focus on mutual support between individuals with lived experience of mental health challenges. And he credits much of his learning to organizations like Prosumers and Hogg Foundation consumer and family liaison and program officers, Tammy Heinz and the late Stephanie Bryan. 

His involvement in the peer support and recovery movement has come to resonate with him tremendously. 

“It’s a holistic way, a humanistic way of approaching the care of an individual,” says Dr. Martinez. ”It’s not antithetical to the medical model. In fact, it’s very complementary. It’s organically designed but also evidence-based in how to treat the whole human being.” 


Changing the Status Quo 

The peer support model still has a way to go before it becomes the standard of recovery care in the mental health field, however.  

“The status quo is so hard to change. It’s formidable,” says Dr. Martinez. “But we are starting to move in that direction.” 

He points to the work of the Scientific Program Committee of the Mental Health Service Conference of the American Psychiatric Association as an example of growing support for a more holistic recovery approach. 

“At the Mental Health Service Conference a few years back, there were only one or two proposals submitted that explored research into peer support and recovery,” says Martinez. “This year I just finished reviewing 127 proposals and over 15 of those proposals concerned peers. And I’m only one of seven other colleagues that are reviewing just as many proposals. 

Change has begun at the state policy level as well. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services now has a Peer and Recovery Services Programs, Planning, and Policy unit that was created to develop, support, and advance the peer workforce in Texas. 

“There are many colleagues out there, like Prosumers, doing this work well. We’ve all played a part in creating leadership pathways for individuals with lived experience to work in the recovery field,” says Dr. Martinez. “Certified peer specialists are now going to work at our local mental health authorities as well as at private clinics. And we’re seeing payers such as health insurance companies actually hiring peers and recognizing they need to be on the team.” 

The Hogg Foundation Policy Fellows and Policy Academy initiative has also helped spread awareness of peer support and recovery. Originally launched in 2010 to provide policymaking education and experience to small nonprofit organizations, the foundation added a parallel peer policy fellowship initiative in 2016 knowing the voices of those with lived experience could have a profound impact on shaping mental health and substance use public policy.  

“We want individuals with lived experience to acquire those skills in policy development. We want them to see themselves as being leaders not only in their community of peers and in recovery, but for any organization,” says Dr. Martinez. 


Moving Forward 

The Hogg Foundation will remain a committed advocate of including consumer voice and peer support in the mental health recovery model, even as new opportunities arise. 

“We’re committed to what we’re doing here at PeerFest today and making sure it continues. This is now a signature event for the Hogg Foundation,” says Martinez. “We also need to be thinking about how we create the leaders of tomorrow. What are we doing with our youth and with our young adults to provide the type of skill sets that’ll help them turn into amazing leaders? It’s important for the Hogg Foundation to continue the kind of grant programs that we’ve been doing while also thinking about what is really needed for the future. We want to continue to do what we do, but also stay relevant and fresh.” 


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