The deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill in New York State some 50 years ago had a clear goal: To create accessible and adequate housing and support programs to allow people to live independently in the community, to work toward recovery and a full and productive life outside a psychiatric hospital.
While New York’s efforts have met with mixed success – housing, in particular, remains a huge challenge – one of the most successful models of service to come out of this era is PROS: Personalized Recovery-Oriented Services. These programs help participants follow “personalized recovery plans” designed to achieve overall wellness by meeting goals such as living independently, education, medication management, and securing employment. PROS programs throughout New York State are grounded in community integration to achieve recovery and overall wellness.
PROS is a critical tool at the Institute for Community Living (ICL) for helping people achieve their recovery goals and move toward independence and a more fulfilling life. The program was built to ensure people are active members of their communities, deal effectively with everyday stresses, reconnect with family, and plan for the future.
A multidisciplinary set of services is offered by a team of social workers, psychiatrists, nurses, employment peer and entitlements professionals, and creative arts specialists. Sessions focus on relapse prevention, medication management and wellness, nutrition, and social functioning.
Support groups with other participants have always been at the center of the PROS model – they help participants find ways to take control of their lives and meet goals related to education, employment, relationships, and housing.
PROS is housed in ICL’s East New York Health Hub – opened in 2018 to offer integrated care where people may come through one program door but find their way to many other resources that help them shore up their path to recovery and greater health. They benefit from being part of a vibrant community, with access to healthy food from the farmers market food pantry on the first floor, take a yoga class, or get their flu shot.
ICL’s whole health model of care has been critical to the people attending PROS. Being housed in the Hub makes it possible for participants to get critical medical care from ICL’s partner Community Healthcare Network (CHN), which offers health services and nutrition support. Many PROS participants now get their primary care at CHN – some for the first time in their lives — as well as the care of specialists to address diabetes, high blood pressure, and other physical health challenges.
Creative arts are integral to the PROS program. In the ICL Hub art room, Dylan is the devoted PROS teaching artist; he leads art classes in a light-filled fully-equipped art room on the main floor of the East New York Health Hub. Even in the most trying periods of the pandemic, PROS artists made their way to the art room at the Hub, where they found comfort and broke their isolation by doing their art and connecting with fellow artists. That’s what PROS is all about – helping individuals rebuild by offering the comfort of community and recognizing each person as an individual with goals and aspirations… and great talent.
Over the years, peer support has become more important in PROS programs – learning from people with lived experience has proven to be another critical tool in the PROS arsenal.
The proof is in the outcomes – research has repeatedly demonstrated that participation in PROS leads to a significant decrease in psychiatric hospitalizations – showing that maintaining this type of psychiatric rehabilitation model must include recovery-oriented components as PROS does so effectively.
At ICL, the success of PROS is thanks to participants who come to the program day after day, doing the work to better their health while supporting others on their journey. They are grateful to the very dedicated and compassionate staff who help them day in and day out. Come visit the ICL East New York Health Hub to see what success looks like at PROS.
Ivor: One Special Story of Perseverance at ICL
There is much to be proud of at ICL PROS – so many have come through the program, and thanks to the support they received and the hard work they put into it, they have overcome major physical and mental health challenges.
One recent story of success is Ivor.
In the early 2000s, Ivor had completed his Associates degree and embarked on a successful career in technology. But he also experienced mental health and anger management challenges. His struggles took hold in unexpected and painful directions — ultimately leading to his incarceration.
On his release, Ivor was determined to turn his life around. He enrolled in Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS), ICL’s community-based, whole health program that provides wellness groups, psychotherapy, and medication management out of the ICL East New York Health Hub.
Ivor set his sights on finding stable housing, managing his mental health, reintegrating into the community, and maintaining his independence. Over the past three years, Ivor has proven that nothing will stop him from achieving his ambitious goals.
Today he regularly participates in groups focused on health, wellness, and financial literacy, which have helped him build skills and confidence. Working closely with his recovery specialist and psychiatrist, Ivor identified and tackled barriers that could hinder his progress. He also reconnected with family, including his sister and aunt. “They are the backbone of my support system,” he shares.
This spring, Ivor moved into ICL’s Broadway residence and is living independently. He is also a passionate writer and recently published his first book, which explores spiritual themes. “ICL was a crucial part of the village that helped me get to where I am today,” says Ivor. “I am proud of my own persistence and hard work. I have such a sense of accomplishment.”
Mindy Liss is Communications Consultant for Institute for Community Living.