Now that the New Year is moving into its second month, this editor thought a quick, unofficial, more-casual-than-not view of who "we" are and what we "do" at Stepping Stones of Rockford might be in order.
If you are looking for the "official" version of who we are and what we do, please peruse the ABOUT section of this website.
It's a tough gig trying to navigate the community--heck, through life--with chronic mental illness. Image you are an adult with symptoms of Schizophrenia. All you want to do is read the newspaper while drinking coffee, but the "voices" keep intruding and concentration is all but impossible. You want to go to an outdoor community event, but the paranoia demands you stay home. You want to be a productive part of society, yet you have trouble holding a job, passing a class or making friends, all because the symptoms of serious mental illness wreak havoc on your plans.
Being a productive member in the community appears to be an insurmountable task.
Enter Stepping Stones of Rockford.
"Individuals with serious mental illnesses are a part of our community. They share the need for safe, affordable and decent housing and the right to a quality of life afforded by the least restrictive living environment. We are here because, to fulfill their daily needs and enjoy their rights as community members, many adults with serious mental illnesses require a strong network of support services; a special kind of on-going encouragement. The staff of Stepping Stones of Rockford, Inc. provides the housing, psycho-social rehabilitation and support to help adults with serious mental illnesses function as productively and independently as possible."
But what does that mean? It means we at Stepping Stones serve those with hallucinations, delusions, mood fluctuations... those who require psychotropic medications, residential settings, advocacy.... those who tend to be ostracized. We fill a void for those adults are unable to navigate day-to-day life due to a chronic (or, do you say serious?) mental illness. We cheer on clients as they build self-efficacy, address symptoms, find purpose and live a life worth living.
I know I want to be a productive part of the community. I want safe, affordable housing. I want access to community offerings. Why would I think a client at Stepping Stones of Rockford would want anything less?
"By offering a variety of housing alternatives and individualized life-skills rehabilitation programs, the staff of Stepping Stones helps residents attain their maximum potential for independent living. For some, Stepping Stones is the transition between institutionalized living and life in the mainstream. For others, Stepping Stones becomes a long-term home enabling our residents to live in the community without relinquishing the support they need."
Meaning? We are trauma-informed residential community mental health serving Winnebago County and surrounding areas. We're with our clients round-the-clock. It's what we do. We work to meet or exceed the goals of those we serve. We give clients the tools to succeed in a less restrictive environment. We meet the clients where they "are" in treatment and in life, all the while reaching for the stars.
Maximum potential, indeed!
"Stepping Stones provides psychiatric rehabilitation services for adults eighteen and older with severe emotional disturbances or serious and persistent mental illnesses including Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder and personality disorders. Stepping Stones strives to serve the individuals participating in our program in the least restrictive environment possible and thus offers a continuum of community based housing and mental health care. Living environments include supervised group homes, supervised apartments and a variety of agency owned and operated supported housing options. Additionally, case management services are provided for those capable of living more independently on their own."
We have over 100 staff working toward success for those in our program. We're in this together: Rehabilitation Supervisors. Program managers. Mental health professionals. Rehabilitative Service Associates. Psychiatrist. Nurse. Business Office. Technology. Buildings and Grounds. Operations. It won't work if it's "us" vs. "them." It takes all of us to make the gestalt.
You know that saying, "it takes a village?" Guess what? It takes a village! Our "village" is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have clients in group homes, apartment complexes, agency apartments and community apartments. Our youngest client is 18; our oldest client is 77. The ages of staff is just as varied. Our village is quite an eclectic group of people.
Some days, all we need is someone to smile at us. Someone to be kind. Someone to acknowledge we're alive and breathing and that we belong on the planet! The same is true of those with chronic mental illness in our community. As part of treatment, we strive to ensure our clients feel that kindness, hope and acceptance. While we're at it, we try to bust stigma. Those with chronic mental illness are part of our community. It's our job to educate the community as we help our clients navigate life.
"The level of mental health services and housing participation is determined by each person's assessed needs, choice and the level of supervision necessary. While the Stepping Stones model is based on participants beginning in a group home and progressing through each stage of the continuum of care, individuals may enter the program at any level and progress through the continuum in the program that provides the level of support that best meets their needs."
Step—ping--stones. We are what are name says. Our clients take it one step at a time. It's not linear. Some start in a group home; others start in a supervised apartment. Now and then, clients start in a community apartment and stay in that setting. Sometimes, clients go "back" to a group home after living in a community apartment. That's not failure. That's life and that's okay.
"Because serious mental illnesses are relapse prone, the continuum of care also allows individuals, when necessary, to move from a less supervised site to a more structured one for brief periods of time. Once participants become re-stabilized, they are then able to return to their previous level of care and housing.
Step—ping--stones. It totally makes sense, doesn't it? After all, there is no magic pill. There is no quick fix. It's one step at a time.
When you read the brochures, tour the sites or peruse the website, focus is—rightly so--on mental health services and opportunities. But, there is so much more than what is tangible. Residential Mental Health Treatment really is so much more than a treatment plan on a piece of paper. There is another layer to treatment at Stepping Stones: a layer of support, hope and acceptance.
Residential Housing. Psychiatric Services. Medication.
SUPPORT. EDUCATION. HOPE.
Psycho-social Rehabilitation. Community Integration. Counseling.
ACCEPTANCE. KINDNESS. STIGMA-BUSTING.
Treatment Planning. Case Management. Community Support.
COMPASSION. ENCOURAGEMENT. SELF-EFFICACY.
Of course, we want to grow as an agency in the community. We are set to grow! Expansion allows us to provide quality, trauma-informed residential mental health services for MORE adults with chronic, serious mental illness—in our community.
Stepping Stones of Rockford is who we are. Improving lives, one step—one smile, one successful outing, one moment of kindness--at a time, in the community is what we do.
Here's to reading the paper and drinking coffee without interference from symptoms of mental illness.
Here's to finding and keeping the job of choice.
Here's to decreasing the frequency and intensity of those symptoms.
Here's to feeling acknowledged and accepted, in this community and in life.
Here's to improved lives, one glorious step at a time!