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Village Recovery Writings


Exploring Recovery:  The Collected Village Writings of Dr Mark Ragins

In 1990 MHALA opened the Village program in Long Beach at the direction of the California state legislature, in response to ongoing problems with deinstitutionalization especially homelessness and incarceration, to demonstrate the best community mental health service could be…and we did it.  Our efforts, in CEO Richard Van Horn’s “four corners”: services, innovation, training, and advocacy, led not only to the  most successful outcomes reported in community mental health across a range of Quality of Life outcomes, and to becoming leaders of the new Recovery Movement drawing thousands of visitors to our program to learn from and be inspired by our work, but also to the passage in 2003 of Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, which every year brings billions of dollars into recovery-based mental health services in California.

We had a core group of dedicated, talented staff many of whom worked together for over a decade building and spreading the Village principles and practices.  Our work was honored by the American Psychiatric Association, the US president, SAMSHA, NMHA, nursing, case management, and employment associations, NAMI, our city, local churches and many others.  Throughout the 27 years I was the medical director of the Village, I was also our most prolific writer, and now the 120+ articles I wrote survive and our posted here as a nearly comprehensive documentation of recovery, how it works, and how to spread it.  You can download any of them you want, share them, post them, use them for trainings, retreats, or classroom handouts. I’m still trying to spread recovery.

I’ve tried to put them in an order that makes sense to me, but, frankly, if your style of exploration is to wander here and there following your own interests instead of following someone else’s lead, feel free.  Each article has an introduction to put it in some context, so you won’t get lost. You can also contact me by e-mail and ask if I have an article that would address your particular needs. 

Here’s an overview to orient you before you move on:

My Personal Transformation is about my personal experiences as I transformed into a recovery-based psychiatrist.  The most complete piece is the “Rehabilitation Psychiatry” paper.  Even though I’d never heard of recovery when I wrote it, I was well on my way. Read Articles Here >>

Creating a Recovery Vision is where I’m coming to terms with the concepts around recovery and putting them together so that I understood why what we were doing was working.  It contains the heart of my work, the “A Road to Recovery.”  It’s my “signature” lecture and contains most of my best stories.  We’ve sold or given away hundreds of copies of it as a small book.  It’s even been translated into Japanese.  In my opinion, its “Kubler-Ross style” four stages of recovery formulation is still my major contribution to making recovery understandable.  If you’re going to skip around, you probably want to start with it.  This Chapter also contains articles where I’m trying to demystify recovery and make it more accessible to typical professional audiences. Read Articles Here >>

Applying Recovery to Daily Challenges is a whole variety of writings applying my understanding of recovery to challenges in my daily work.  In my view, for a model to be useful, it should be able to lead us to successful approaches to challenges we didn’t anticipate when we put together the model.  The recovery model hasn’t let me down yet.  You get the most papers on issues that focus on what I worked on, most notably substance abuse, homelessness, and psychiatrists. Read Articles Here >>

Building and Improving a Recovery Based Program is a description of how we put together the Village based on our principles and some of redesign challenges we’ve faced as its evolved.  If you’re feeling lost without knowing what the Village is, turn to “An Overview of the Village.”  I put it back here instead of up front because my main goal in this book is to let you explore recovery and figure out how to apply it to your life, not to give you instructions of how to “cookie-cutter” replicate the Village. Read Articles Here >>

Spreading Recovery Based Personal Transformation is about spreading personal transformation.  From the beginning the Village was created as a model program to be used as an advocacy tool to promote widespread system change.  As we’ve worked on this we’ve repeatedly realized that for the system to change, people need to change.  “Up Close and Personal” is one of my favorites because I think it led me deeper into the underlying emotions and personal issues than any other paper.  The “A Guide to Mental Health Transformation on a Personal Level” is another small book that is a comprehensive discussion of the need for everyone to change, not just “someone else.” Read Articles Here >>

Spreading Recovery Based System Transformation includes a variety of writings focusing on the practicalities of system transformation.  Many of them were first distributed as part of two Proposition 63 implementation toolboxes.  “Recovery Based System Planning (Part 1 and 2)” is my favorite for system transformation planning.  “The Power of Flow” is probably the most challenging.  “Creating a Recovery Transformation Plan” and “Designing Transformed Clinics” are probably the most practically useful for program directors.  This chapter also has several administrative tools for building a recovery-based infrastructure including the MORS and The Recovery Culture Progress Report as well as a set of recovery-based policies for staff-client interactions.  There are also curricula and staff training materials in this chapter.  Read Articles Here >> 

My presentations and these writings have brought me a great deal of satisfaction and recognition over the years, but grounding all of it is my clinical work.  Hundreds of people - coworkers, people with mental illnesses who I have worked with, their families, and even people in the community around us - have taught me so much about listening, hopefulness, compassion, and personal healing as we’ve struggled together to rebuild lives and attain recovery.  If nothing else, I hope that some of my passion for this work and the people around me comes through as you explore this book.

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