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Press Release

Contra Costa Health Services Offers Life-changing Course for Mental Health Consumers

September 14, 2009

When Hillary Westbrook signed up for a class at Contra Costa College last year, she thought it might help her find employment in the mental health field. What she didn't expect, however, was the class to have such a profound impact on her mental health recovery.

The class that has helped hundreds of people in the mental health system, including Westbrook who was battling depression and addiction, will return to Contra Costa College in January. It is called the Service Provider Individualized Recovery Intensive Training—or SPIRIT—program and is taught by the Mental Health staff of Contra Costa Health Services.

Susan Medlin is the manager for the Office for Consumer Empowerment at CCHS and oversees the SPIRIT program. Stipends are offered for those in the mental health system who go through an application process and interview. Medlin said the class assists mental health consumers in their recovery and teaches them to work in the mental health field. Each class features a lecture from someone who works in the mental health field and practical application of techniques learned, so students can learn skills to work as a peer provider in mental health.

"During a six-month period, students learn about themselves through the bonds they create in the classroom," Medlin said. "Those bonds build confidence and provide the peer support that is so critical in the recovery process."

Like almost all who finish the course, Westbrook entered a 10-week work-study program in the mental health field. Hers was with CCHS. She is now enrolled in a four-year college as a human services major. Although employment is not a guarantee for those who complete the training, Westbrook was hired by CCHS and now works as the lead instructor for SPIRIT.

"SPIRIT was the beginning for me. I tried to go to school before, but could never finish," she said. "I was in early recovery at the time and SPIRIT taught me so much about myself. It taught me how to take care of myself. It taught me that my diagnosis was not my destiny."

And that, Medlin says, is perhaps the most important part of the course.

Applications for course stipends are available by visiting and clicking on Mental Health in the left navigation menu or by calling 925-890-4044. The last day to apply for a stipend is September 30, 2009.

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Press Contact
  • Susan Medlin
  • 925-957-5104
  • Hillary Westbrook
  • 925-890-4044