Mental Health Association Opens Door To Recovery

Steven Cobb, Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County associate director; and Kia Briggs, Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County executive director, stand outside of their office, located in the Gateway Center, 31 Water Street, Jamestown. Submitted photo

Editor’s Note: The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation is commemorating its 40th anniversary this year. This week’s story was inspired by gifts to The Fund for the Region.

Kia Briggs and Steven Cobb are helping to open the door to recovery.

As the executive director and associate director of the Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County, both have witnessed firsthand the power community support plays into one’s recovery journey.

“We’re here to show people that recovery is possible,” Briggs said.

A peer recovery center, MHA employs certified individuals recovering from mental health diagnoses, with many recovering from substance abuse.

“By eliminating the power dynamic and showing that we are equal to them, we are able to build trusting relationships and be a consistent force throughout their recovery journey,” Cobb said.

A journey, Briggs and Cobb are quick to point out, that is unique to each person.

For Luis, his journey to MHA began when he moved to Jamestown in 2006. For seven years, he worked for a local retailer until his hours began to decrease and eventually he found himself unemployed. Depressed, he began heavily drinking and smoking pot.

Luis’ turning point came when he met Cobb at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at MHA. Seeing other participants treating one another like family, Luis began attending several peer support group meetings each week and eventually joined MHA’s work experience program while on public assistance.

After finishing the program, Luis decided to continue his journey to become a certified peer specialist. He was soon hired by MHA and today works as the association’s only bilingual peer specialist.

In 2017, Luis helped 74 Spanish-speaking participants get connected to various resources throughout the region and offers the only Spanish language peer support group in the region.

Today, he continues to help others through their challenges, working with individuals at all stages of recovery, encouraging them to seek counseling, helping them find employment or housing, and working with them to achieve their goals.

“I like (MHA) because I am helping others,” Luis said. “I show them, ‘I did it, now you can too.'”

Located in the Gateway Center, MHA offers more than twenty peer support groups each week ranging from AA and Narcotics Anonymous, to family support groups and classes that teach life skills.

There is no charge for any of the services MHA provides and Briggs and Cobb welcome anyone who may be interested in learning about their services, either for themselves or a family member or friend, to call or stop in.

“Everyone’s life is valuable,” Briggs said. “We are here to help them recognize their strengths and achieve their goals. Our staff is here to remain a constant, consistent force in their recovery, whenever they are ready to begin.”

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