RHD Peer Specialist and Trainer Receives Award for His Inspiring Work

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“If you’re a Certified Peer Specialist, we need you. It’s an important role. What you’re doing is worth it. Don’t let anybody tell you anything different.”

Michael Nelson, from RHD’s Creating Increased Connections (CIC), delivered these inspiring words while accepting the Legacy Award during the Philadelphia Professional Development Awards Ceremony on December 15. The award recognized “Pioneering Leadership and Contributions in Development of Professional Development Networking.” This award was presented by the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services’ Peer Culture and Community Inclusion Unit, and honored Michael for his outstanding work serving the community as a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) and CPS Trainer. 

Michael’s speech was empowering and moving as he addressed the many ways each CPS brings something special to the role. He used color as a metaphor to portray how uniquely different and valuable CPS’ contributions are. “We all paint these rooms. I may paint in orange. You may paint a beautiful purple or a beautiful pastel.”

The ceremony was held at the Center City Philadelphia offices of Mental Health Partnerships. In addition to Michael, two other Philadelphia-area Certified Peer Specialists received recognition and were awarded for their contributions to the community. The Peer Culture and Community Inclusion Unit also hosts monthly Professional Development Networking (PDN) meetings, providing Certified Peer Specialists and Certified Recovery Specialists (CRS) a way to connect and share best practices and experiences, while learning new, innovative and creative ways to enhance their skills. Specialists can earn Continuing Education Units (CEU) credits during these meetings. 

Michael joined RHD as a CPS in 2016. Since that time, he has been an integral and valuable member of CIC, helping individuals in Montgomery County build social interaction, community connection, and additional skills, through peer-run classes and education. Michael uses existing program resources to train in Wellness and Recovery After Psychosis (WRAP), Hearing Voices Movement, Intention Peer Support, and Storytelling. He has done outstanding work providing CPS trainings in Philadelphia County for over 12 years, educating more than 600 Certified Peer Specialists as well. His work exemplifies RHD’s Values and is one of many reasons he has proven to be a phenomenal resource for the community.

During his acceptance speech, Michael expressed his appreciation and admiration for the CPS community. He emphasized the importance of speaking one’s mind as a CPS. “When we started the PDN meeting, it was about us coming together but having a single voice. I can say something, and it may not be heard. But if I get next to all your voices, then maybe the people that need to hear it will, because our voice is saying it together.”

He continued, “If I’m a person that doesn’t like crowds, I might be quiet. But if I meet with somebody one on one, I’ll talk. That’s my personality changing based on the room. But your character doesn’t change. It stays the same no matter what room you’re in.

So, it’s not enough to be in a room with decision makers. It’s important to have a voice while you’re in the room. And let your character show.”

Learn more about Creating Increased Connections (CIC) at https://www.rhd.org/program/creating-increased-connections-through-education-and-support-cic/.