Six years ago, META Services was a traditional behavioral health organization. META's mission statement articulately described our commitment to help people "stabilize" and "maintain," and we were proud of how well we did this.
We had been in business for nearly 10 years and had a reputation for providing high-quality services in our community. The year was 1999, the place was Phoenix, Ariz., and there was as yet no talk about the vision of recovery from mental illness guiding our operations (Anthony, 1993; President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, 2003), nor the need to transform the mental health system and its programs with respect to mission, basic values, principles and assumptions (Mazade, 2005).
The story of META's transformation provides an example of the many strategies agencies might use to align their practices more closely with the vision of recovery.
Changing the mission
In the spring of 1999, CEO Eugene Johnson and several members of our leadership team attended a national workshop where people with mental illnesses talked about how discouraging it was to be continually discounted, disempowered and disrespected by the very service systems that were supposed to be helping them. Our team walked out of the workshop agreeing that this was indeed the case, and that the speakers had every right to be disappointed and discouraged.
Then our CEO had one of those moments he calls a "crisis of conscience." He realized that the "system" described by the workshop participants was, in fact, us--our company.
Many practitioners in our agency could relate with what people with mental illnesses said at the workshop. Deep down, we knew something was wrong, missing, and that there must be a better way to do our business. But since we didn't know a better way, or how to change, we were tempted to cling to what we were trained to do. But it was too late. The change process had already started and most of us decided to go with it.
Our CEO reread our mission statement, and decided that creating a new one would be a good place to start. We spent a whole day rewriting our mission statement before we came up with something that seemed to fit our new vision:
"To create opportunities and environments to empower people to recover, to succeed in accomplishing their goals, and to reconnect to themselves, others, and meaning and purpose in life." (Johnson, 2002, p. 1)
Figuring out a way to actually implement this statement required a huge leap of faith, but we seemed to be taking it, even though some of our staff were more or less being dragged along kicking and screaming, mostly because they didn't know where we were going with this or what it would mean for them. Would they lose their jobs if everyone got better? Would peer employees take their jobs? Would their licenses be affected?
Starting a recovery-oriented program
Next thing we knew, our CEO hired a person with a mental illness and put her on the...