Right Now, What Will Keep You Safe?

Sue Ann Atkerson squareI’m sitting in RI International’s third-ever ASIST training with eighteen employees from across our Arizona programs.   We don’t know what to expect, but our facilitators Mike Zeeb (pictured below) and Terrence Smithers quickly put us at ease:  not only are we going to learn how to confidently help a person at risk of suicide, but we are about to join the ranks of the more than 1,000,000 people who have been trained worldwide.  ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) is one of the most widely-used, evidence-based suicide intervention programs in the world.

ASIST is part of RI International’s commitment to equip our workforce with the skills, knowledge and supports needed to effectively and confidently work with persons at risk of suicide, and to increase the safety and well-being of the persons we serve. Anyone can take the class, regardless of training or experience; it’s founded on the premise that any one person has the capability of making a difference in the life of someone else.

A couple staff members express confusion and even fear, stating that in the past they were taught only to ask about whether someone wanted to harm themselves, but not to ask directly about suicide or to even use the word.  This is one of the biggest myths surrounding suicide:  that talking about suicide might give the person an idea they don’t already have.  Studies show the opposite: if the person really was thinking of suicide, there’s often a sense of relief in having it out in the open.  And if they weren’t thinking about death, you haven’t planted a seed but instead conveyed your caring and concern.


Mike Zeeb, RI International

Lastly, yes–this IS a culture shift for RI International!  We are a behavioral health agency entrusted to assist others in overcoming the limitations of serious mental illness; as such, we must commit to creating safety for our staff and the persons we serve. We’ve always been focused on the broader reasons for living (hope, meaning and connection), but it’s time we also attended to the feelings of pain and suicide.

Over the course of the two-day interactive session, we spend time together in the larger group as well as in smaller break-out sessions.  In our small groups we learn that nearly everyone has been touched by suicide in some manner, and we are encouraged to share only what we are comfortable with.  We learn how our personal feelings about suicide might help or hinder our effectiveness with others.  We learn about the model, and practice the steps through role plays and discussion.

It’s powerful stuff, and I am blown away by the level of genuine compassion I observe in my classmates.  What an amazing team we have!  At the end of day two we receive our certificates, a wallet-sized reference guide to help us remember the steps in times of need, and stickers to let others know we are trained to help. I feel my own confidence lift; the opportunity to practice these skills with others has been invaluable. As my classmates receive their certificates one by one, I reflect that our team and those we serve are in good hands.

We all have been affected by suicide in some way (a loved one, a friend, a co-worker).  Our survey of the US behavioral health workforce demonstrated that more than one in four who work in public mental health have had a person for whom they were responsible die of suicide. We might know someone who is struggling right now.  Maybe it’s you.  Either way, you owe it to yourself to sign up for this life-saving workshop today.

At RI International, we are embarking on a campaign to train 500 of our nearly 900 employees by the end of 2016, including executives, administrative staff, and direct service providers. Are you in?

Zero Suicide: An International Declaration for Better Healthcare includes Ten Steps to Start championing a program in your organization.

The first step is creating a steering committee and drafting an implementation plan, that includes a multi-year commitment. Ensure inclusion of persons with lived experience.

Sue Ann Atkerson, LPC, is Chief Operating Officer at RI International. She is partnering with leaders across the country to craft our organization’s Zero Suicide work plan.

To view more of the Ten Steps to Start, download the full list here.


Originally posted on  at davidwcovington.com

RI International employee introduces RISE program in addressing mental health and addiction treatment in Malibu, CA

RI International employee Gordon Durich, a Recovery Specialist with our RISE program in Oxnard, California was published in the February/March issue of the Malibu Chronicle, a publication with 100,000 local readers of the print publication, and world-wide online circulation. Gordon’s article includes a quote from RI International CEO David Covington, and features several mental health and addiction treatment centers in the Malibu area, including RI’s RISE program in which Gordon serves.  Click to read the article on MalibuChronicle.com.

Aspen Fellow: Shannon Jaccard in Inaugural Health Innovators Class

shannon jaccardFrom success to significance. The Aspen Global Leadership Network was launched with the Henry Crown Fellowship Program in 1997, designed to mentor the next generation of community-spirited leaders to make a greater mark.

The network is comprised of more than 2,100 fellows, who were chosen because of a track record of success, their entrepreneurial mindset, their focus on integrity and high-impact and their willingness to engage in a lifelong partnership with other leaders. Candidates must be between the ages of 35 and 48, and at a career inflection point, ready to consider their next level of contribution. 

Aspen fellows include top leaders of Fortune 500 companies, including in 2015 the President of #27, Boeing, and a General Manager of #8, General Electric. However, the goal is a rich mosaic that includes different sectors and backgrounds. For example, the 2014 class included Grammy-award winning rapper and record producer Lupe Fiasco (his stage name).

In July, the Aspen Institute introduced its first health innovators class, and selected 20 leaders, including National Alliance on Mental Illness San Diego’s CEO Shannon Jaccard. Members of the inaugural class also include Johnson and Johnson’s VP of Global Health Policy and the Department of Homeland Security’s Senior Medical Advisor. There are 11 MD’s in the group, and other sectors represented include pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, health care venture capital, and veterans’ health.

Over the next two years Shannon will participate in over a month of focused teamwork on leadership development, core values and action planning. Each fellow develops a stretch plan that includes a proposal for a community initiative that will create a lasting legacy. The Aspen Institute fully intends to impact the US healthcare ecosystem through the efforts of these accomplished leaders.

Shannon recently described to me the energizing and fast-paced first week experience, with 15 hour work days (7 am to 10 pm). Cell phones are left at the entrance, and the visioning begins immediately. Moderated leadership discussions catapult ideas from pre-homework readings, including The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas and Martin Luther King’s Letters from a Birmingham Jail.

The focus is on action. What do you need? And, the global network of leaders will help you. We can make it happen!

Shannon already has a resume of significant accomplishment and vision for the future. NAMI San Diego’s innovative programming and tech café have been nationally recognized. In addition to her CEO role and serving on the boards of directors for both RI International and Meeting Place Clubhouse, Shannon founded Compeer San Diego, a nonprofit organization to provide friendship and support to individuals with a mental illness.

With both an MBA and an intensely personal commitment to advocacy for persons with mental illness, it will be exciting to learn what develops next from the inspiration, connections and support the Aspen Health Innovators Fellowship offers. Stay tuned. I’m confident the world will be a better place because of these leaders’ deliberate efforts and impact.

About NAMI San Diego:  An affiliate of NAMI California and the national grass roots, non-profit founded in 1979 by family members, NAMI San Diego is the community’s voice on mental illness. Its threefold mission is to support, educate and advocate. They offer a Helpline, support groups, educational meetings, newsletters, a lending library and classes at various locations throughout the county to end the stigma associated with mental illness.

Global Peer Support Celebration Day

Lisa-StGeorge1024x1013-300x296Peer Support workers and their teams around the world celebrated Global Peer Supporters Celebration Day (GPSCD) on October 15, 2015. The celebration emerged from iNAPS, the interNational Association of Peer Specialists. You might be wondering what iNAPS is and when it was formed. I found out in a recent meeting with various leaders of the GPSCD movement. “iNAPS is a 501©(3), non-profit membership organization dedicated to promoting the use of peer support services worldwide,” said Rita Cronise, the coordinator of iNAPS. Rita went on to say, “It was formed in 2004 by a group of avid supporters, and has quickly grown with members in every state and several countries outside the USA.”

California Global Peer Supporter Celebration Day

RI International’s Safe Haven Team celebrates Global Peer Support Celebration Day in Riverside, CA

Bill Beverly-Blanco, who worked with Gladys Christian for the past year creating interest and momentum around this first Global Celebration, referred to peer supporters as bridge builders. Rita identified the name change in 2013 from National Association of Peer Specialists (NAPS) to the International Association of Peer Supporters to be more inclusive of all peer workers, not just those with a certification. In addition, International was included because of the increasingly global membership in the organization.


RI International’s Cambridge Court Staff, celebrating in Phoenix, AZ

Steve Harrington reports that the idea of GPSCD was proposed years ago but gained momentum at the 2014 annual iNAPS Peer Supporter Conference when Dan O’Brian-Mazza, National Director of Peer Support Services at the VA brought it up and it was greeted with much enthusiasm. Rita and Bill described, “With Dan’s encouragement the idea was further developed by a team that included Gladys, and a core group within the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare Administration of Jason Zimmerman, and Pam Moore. Supporting organizations included, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), RI International (formerly Recovery Innovations), Copeland Center, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (PRA), Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, Appalachian Consulting Group, the National mental Health Consumer’s Self-Help Clearing house and many others who were eager to join the effort.”

Click to view more photos of RI International celebrating Peer Supporters!

This year RI International put on celebrations at its locations in the United States and New Zealand. We are grateful for the great work of our peer support team members and all of our team members.

To find out more about iNAPS Global Peer Support Celebration Day go to:
or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GlobalPeerSupportCelebrationtDay.org/

“Recovery Innovations” is now “RI International”

RI InternationalWe’ve recently launched a new website, and with it we are introducing a new brand name and will now be known as RI International. We are also highlighting our businesses with four distinct unit brands(Crisis, Health, Recovery and Consulting), and we hope you will explore the content on links for each of these RI International businesses. We’ve undergone an amazing transformation over the past year and now we’re excited to share our new name and identity, which, while retaining some original brand elements, also highlights our areas of significant growth.

In spite of the change to our brand, we wanted to ensure simplicity in our business interactions, so please note the following:

  • Our new brand identities are D/B/As; and our legal names remain Recovery Innovations, Inc. and Recovery Opportunity Center, LLC.
  • All contracts remain in effect with no modifications required.

These changes better reflect our strategic vision, key areas of emphasis, and our international presence. We’re growing to serve you (and our participants) better, by expanding our programs and services in four key business units.                                                                              .
RI CrisisCrisis is our fastest growing area with new programs in Arizona, California, Delaware, North Carolina and Washington State. We’re also enhancing technologies and service lines within our existing array of Recovery Response Centers (Crisis Stabilization Programs), Evaluation & Treatment (Involuntary & Court-ordered Treatment), and Crisis Respites. And, we’re adding capacity through partnerships for “Air Traffic Control” equipped crisis and access call centers, electronic crisis bed inventory systems, community-based mobile crisis teams and high-tech dispatch.

RI HealthHealth is an emerging business that we are implementing first in Arizona through a partnership with primary care. It facilitates individual and group counseling, co-occurring substance abuse programming and illness management and recovery groups. In addition, we provide transitional and permanent supported housing options. We’re in the process of adding clinical, medical, and routine primary care services, creating fully-integrated health homes. These well-rounded services further strengthen our ability to support individuals at risk of suicide, co-occurring substance use disorder, and serious medical conditions including diabetes, COPD and heart disease.
.RI RecoveryRecovery offers peer support services in multiple locations in five states and New Zealand, providing individual and group peer support and recovery education programs. We’re currently expanding our Peer Bridger/Navigator opportunities to ensure successful community transition of our participants after hospitalization or incarceration. We’re also placing an emphasis on measurably demonstrating both the recovery and cost-savings benefits of these programs.

RI ConsultingConsulting provides consulting and training services around the globe. Subject Matter Experts from throughout the organization provide consultation regarding key programs including; next-generation crisis services (including the “Air Traffic Control” functionality and technologies referenced above), transition management, integrated outpatient and peer support, managing a peer workforce, Zero Suicide programming, health and wellness, co-Occurring SUD and BH leadership.

RI Consulting’s Peer/Recovery Support Certification is the most transferrable in the world. In addition to providing consulting and training in nearly every state, we’ve provided services in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Tokyo and throughout the United Kingdom.

Our recent Zero Suicide in Healthcare summit in partnership with IIMHL was the second international gathering of its kind, and it included participation from 13 countries (Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, French Polynesia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, N. Ireland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the US).

RI before and after branding

Thank you for your continued partnership and support in our shared and very worthwhile endeavor of empowering others in their efforts toward a healthier life in community.

Turning Point: Lessons from the Battle of Gettysburg. A Summary of the Open Minds Leadership Retreat

SueAnnArkenson_1Recently I attended the Open Minds Leadership Retreat in Gettysburg, PA.  Like all Open Minds events, the speaker lineup and presentation quality was exceptional.  In addition, the content of the three-day retreat corresponded with the key events of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, considered by most to be the turning point of the Civil War.  This format allowed for in-depth learning in the morning accompanied by battlefield tours in the afternoon, which really brought the morning’s key objectives to life.  As is common practice for me, with such conferences, I was completely absorbed in the presentations while I was there, and quickly returned to business as usual upon my return.  Until earlier this week, that is, when I ran in to a colleague of mine who had also been in attendance.  She commented that she didn’t realize how much information she was taking in at the time, but that many facets of the retreat were setting in more and more in the weeks since.  She was right; I realized that I, too, had been experiencing the slow permeation of information as it crept into my daily thoughts and actions.  Here are the top three takeaways that have been resonating with me:

1. Strategy and positioning are key components to weathering the changing healthcare marketplace.  Have you and your executive team developed a three or five-year strategic plan in the past year or two?  If so, it may be outdated.  Today’s strategic plans must not only be updated more frequently, but must also be built into the infrastructure of the agency’s operations and used as a guide for executive decision making throughout the year.  The current environment requires agencies to engage in rapid repositioning and constant innovation to keep pace with dynamic movements in the system; as such, executive leaders must  dynamically responsive to market trends and funder demands to secure and maintain a competitive market position.  Continually revisiting the strategy and re-assessing your  marketplace position with each change is critical to future success.

2. Services must be evidence-based and outcome-oriented.  In a system shifting from volume to value-based payments, providers must demonstrate the science behind their service delivery systems and provide tangible evidence of outcomes.  As Dr. Kevin Huckshorn so pointedly stated in her opening keynote, “Review all your clinical practices; if they have no evidence base, you need to replace them.”  In addition, providers must ensure that program offerings are relative to the marketplace in which they operate,  and must include either providing new services to existing customers, finding new customers for your current services, and/or providing new services to new customers.  Because product life cycles are shorter in a changing environment, conducting regular analyses of your portfolio by service line provides key information regarding needed improvements or which services may need to be phased out.  And don’t forget to take the consumer’s needs into consideration; in today’s marketplace, that means services that are easy, convenient, accessible, and outside the traditional ‘facility-based services during business hours’ model.

3. Executive leaders must liken themselves to athletes and train accordingly to successfully face current challenges.  Today’s leaders must adapt and change at an unprecedented pace; indeed, I’ve heard the phrase “speed is the new competency” on more than one occasion recently.  Leaders must react quickly to opportunities and threats without allowing their own resistance to change to compromise their actions.  Leaders must recognize that we can’t rely on what we’ve always done, and that what was once ‘good enough’ or even great at a previous point in time will likely no longer apply in the future environment.

Given this, executives must take care of themselves in order to ensure they are energized, focused, and committed to accomplishing the job at hand.  According to Dr. Carmella Sebastian, MD, how much an employee is engaged, enthusiastic, and committed to the organization helps predict their overall health and well-being.  Similarly, non-engagement leads to chronic stress and poor performance, putting the success of the entire agency at risk.  Not only do leaders need to take care of themselves, but they need to encourage the same in others to ensure a happy, committed, and collaborative workforce able to execute the company’s objectives.

As I continue to reflect on the lessons and events over the course of that three-day period, I am awestruck with the monumental task that lies before us.  As Monica Oss stated in the final keynote of the retreat, behavioral health agencies are just beginning to ride this “tidal wave” of change in a marketplace that is “less forgiving” than anything that has come before.

RI International CEO & President delivers Zero Suicide message to Washington State’s Summit of Hope

Click to redirect to The Oregonian article:

Zero suicide? Summit of Hope aims to start dialogue about taboo subject

By Nuran Alteir, The Oregonian/Oregon Live


RI International employee Jeffery Najarian speaks to San Diego Board RE: $10 million for housing the homeless

Click to redirect to the San Diego Union-Tribune article:

$10 Million to help homeless, mental illness

Funds will provide housing for mentally ill in recovery programs.

By Joshua Stewart, The San Diego Union-Tribune.




RI International joins forces with other Mental Health Providers on Veteran-related 22 to 0 Suicide Prevention campaign

Click to redirect to the MarketWatch article:

Magellan Health, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Organizations Launch 22-to-0 Campaign Marking National Suicide Prevention Month



Recovery Innovations’ ROC Awarded VA National Contract for Peer Support

Click excerpt below to be directed to full article.