The passage of the Community Mental Health Act in 1963 and the ensuing deinstitutionalization movement marked the start of an era focused on the integration of persons with serious mental illness (SMI) in community settings through the acquisition of integrated, income-based housing and participation in community-based treatment. Efforts to promote involvement in mainstream community activities among this population were limited. Persons with SMI often experienced profound social isolation within their communities. In recent years, a growing body of literature has emerged demonstrating that full community participation is associated with positive health outcomes and improved quality of life for individuals with SMI. At the same time, robust research findings on the negative influence of loneliness on overall health became widely recognized. Meaningful community participation has since been identified by SAMHSA as an essential dimension of life in recovery from SMI.
This session will provide an overview on how to promote community inclusion for persons with SMI from a variety of perspectives. We will discuss an innovative peer delivered intervention promotes community participation among individuals with SMI who have traditionally been underserved and under-represented in an urban setting as well as a new initiative to professionally recognize the work of peers who have lived experience in the criminal legal system.