Search This Blog

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Identity Protection 101

National Crime Stop Program
Mr. Kevin Gilpin spoke at a Consumer Network meeting about Identity Theft on October 14, 2017. Identity Theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States. 

Mr. Gilpin, who is the Director of the National Crime Stop Program, shared some tips for staying safe. They include…

  • Shred all store receipts that have an imprinted bar code
  •  Restaurant servers can easily skim your card, instead pay your bill with cash.
  •  Use PayPal or a re-loadable debit/gift card for all your online purchases.
  •  Always select the DEBIT function, never the CREDIT function on your ATM

Friday, December 1, 2017

What is WRAP®?

The Wellness Recovery Action Plan® (WRAP®) is an evidence-based wellness program that is rooted in the principle of self-determination. It's about what people can do for themselves, and how they can build and maintain support from others to improve their health.

Who should use WRAP®?                     
WRAP® was originally designed by and for people with mental health conditions, but it is now used in a variety of settings and for many different health challenges. WRAP® is for anyone who is interested in feeling empowered and supported in improving their health and well-being.

What can I learn in WRAP®?                          
All WRAP® participants end with a highly personalized wellness plan that includes:
· A list of resources to use to keep yourself well (a wellness toolbox)
· A plan for keeping yourself well from day to day
· A series of action plans for when things aren't going your way, you're starting to feel unwell, or you need some extra support
· Plans for what you'll do if you go into crisis

Why was it two full days long?                          
People who complete the full 14-hour workshop are eligible to move on to WRAP® Facilitator Training. If you like WRAP® and want to teach it to others, you'll already have the prerequisite hours you need to take a facilitator class
Congratulations on completing the Introduction to WRAP training!
Held in Miami, FL on October 26 & 27, 2017

Saturday, September 9, 2017


       Since both Israel and I live in emergency evacuation zones initially both of us were extremely concerned. We were planning to hunker down at my apartment which initially seemed safer, despite knowledge that it was in a surge and high wind zone. Then I unexpectedly received a call from a friend in California who was saying “you need to evacuate now”. When I explained that financially this was not an option, she took me totally by surprise offering to wire us money. Extremely grateful I accepted. The money was there in twenty minutes. Israel being computer savvy located us a hotel. We stayed one night and the hotel was evacuated. Israel on the job again. Helpful as always, located a safer hotel. We are currently in residence. We then went grocery shopping for non-perishable foods and water. Our back up plan if we need to leave here is to go to the airport, since it will remain open twenty-four hours.
       We are staying glued to the news, as well as remembering self-care and our WRAP plans. We are taking time to watch other television shows, write, do crossword puzzles, and read.
       Bless everyone and your families.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


This year has been touched by grief and loss as some of our colleagues and peers are no longer with us.  Our innermost hurts sometimes disguise themselves under blankets of depression and unspeakable pain.

However, this is the time that we should consider reaching out to supporters.  Who are our supporters you may ask? Individuals who believe in us and offer unconditional high regard, strength-based feedback—and most importantly, trust.

Someone We Can Trust
Remember, self-care is vital when experiencing grief and loss. Yet, one may not be able to get out of bed or even take a bath during moments of deep sadness. One should be able to cry in front of a supporter and show emotions concerning the loss of a loved one. This is where trust comes in. It builds a strong foundation between individuals.

A good supporter will remind one of the need to take care of one’s self, and may even stress the importance of having a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) for moments like these.

Beginning the Process of Healing
In realizing that we have support and are not alone we can then begin the process of healing, moving forward into the future, knowing that this is what our loved ones would want for us. 

To our dearly departed … we will always love and miss you, as your light will continue to shine brightly in our hearts.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Art Workshops are Returning

Once again, Fresh Start of Miami-Dade and the Consumer Network were awarded a grant from the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs for the Recovery in the Arts project. 

Sandra McQueen-Baker, Consumer Network Coordinator, says that she is thrilled to have this continued opportunity to showcase different forms of recovery expression.

This year, Photography and Painting are the vehicles for this artistic expression. Workshops for both will be held in Miami, Florida and is free and open to all consumers of mental health services.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Celebration for South Florida Agents of Change

Monday, May 22, 2017, saw a historic collaboration of South meets North!  Peer Leaders and Community Partners from Miami-Dade County came together with Leaders in Broward County to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Local artists showcased  paintings and crafts with hopeful messages about recovery. A lively entertainer rapped about  her recovery and the hope that her spiritual faith gives her.  A poet read a series of poems she wrote about her experiences with mental illness with the message that recovery is possible for everyone. North and South met on the dance floor and celebrated together.

Film Premier

We enjoyed a film clip from the upcoming documentary, “A Letter to Niyyah”.  It was a very moving presentation, followed by a discussion with the star of the film, Sharon Wise. Sharon is an award winning Peer Leader, Advocate and Artist.

We enjoyed food, networking, sharing, music, poetry and just celebrated the joy of living in Recovery.                 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Peer Specialist Training

Eighteen people attended the Peer Specialist Training held in Miami, Florida. The three day training was on February 8-10, 2017. Facilitators were Kishma Lewis of Fresh Start of Miami-Dade, and Clarence Office of Veterans Administration.

The participants had this to say about the training..
     “I really love the tone that was set. A really comfortable atmosphere of learning.”
     “I love learning about everything that has to do with helping people.”
     “The facilitators were really informative.”
     “People shared experiential knowledge which added to the class.”
     “The free materials were very helpful”.
     “Very educational, will definitely help me do my job better.”
What do peer specialists do?
Peer specialists can play many roles in support for people living with psychiatric disorders and/or in addiction recovery. They are capable of facilitating education and support groups and working as a bridge linking people to services as they transition from hospitals or jails into the community. Peers also work one-on-one as role models, mentors, coaches and advocates and support people in develop-ing psychiatric advance directions and creating Wellness Recovery Action Plans (WRAP).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


What do you do when your best friend is faithful, fierce and four-legged?  You love it as unconditionally as it loves you.  You guard it with the same fervent loyalty as it guards you and devote yourself to it, even when it pees on your favorite chair or chews your best pair of shoes.

A survivor faces her biggest challenge

In 2008 I lost my marriage, my home and bits and pieces of my heart.  I was shattered.  I thought that I was a survivor.  I survived childhood trauma, a mental health diagnosis, the loss of my mother, a car accident, said goodbye to a son as he headed to Iraq; and I even survived when burglarized in a newly rented apartment.  But my biggest challenge, however, was the loneliness that awaited me each night after work.

I turned on the television, the radio and also tried my hand at singing and dancing.  Neither of them helped.  The loneliness was always there waiting.

Abigail meets her new friend

I remember going to work, sitting at my desk deep in paper work and deep in thought, when in sauntered a noisy little bundle of fur.  I jumped up to see how it could have possibly gotten in or who was its owner. 

There stood my son grinning from ear to ear.  “Is he mine?”, I asked while scooping him up.  “Is he mine?” I asked a second time. 

“Yeah, ma.  He’s yours.” 

Tears of happiness slithered down my face onto that fuzzy little ball. He squirmed to get away.  Realizing his efforts were futile, he relaxed and started licking my face.  What joy!

My Pet is My Wellness Tool.
Eight years later I still enjoy my faithful, fierce and four-legged friend.  His name is Zion an overly protective chubby little yorkie that no longer chews shoes and only occasionally lifts his leg toward my favorite chair.  But most importantly, from the moment he walked into my office loneliness was gone when I got home.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trainings Have Resumed in 2017

Fresh Start Consumer Network provides recovery and empowerment training as part of the  Statewide Consumer Network.  As guided by the evidence-based  WRAP  (Wellness Recovery Action Planning) model, our goal is to educate and empower individuals and  advocates who want to provide leadership and promote recovery in  their communities. 

Scheduled Trainings for the New Year 

  • First, there was an Introduction to WRAP training scheduled for January 26 & 27, 2017 (two days). This  WRAP training was for Young Adults ages 25 and under.  
  • Also, Mental Health First Aid was held on January 28, 2017 and was specifically for residents and/or employees of the City of Miami Gardens. 
  • A WRAP Refresher course took place on February 6 & 7, 2017 — for those who needed to renew their WRAP Facilitator certification.  
  • Peer Specialist training was scheduled for February 8-10, 2017. 
  • This year trainings are also scheduled to be held in Tampa and Orlando, Florida. 

Stay Connected

The year has only just begun.  More trainings will be scheduled in Miami, as well as other Florida cities.  Request to be put on our email list, and you will be informed of all future trainings conducted by Fresh Start Consumer Network.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Why Consumer Network Meetings are Important by A. Miryam israel

As you know, Consumer Network meetings are held every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month in
Miami, Florida. Maybe some of you are trying to start your own network in your various cities. But
why? What’s the point? I can think of at least three reasons to have consumers and peers network with
each other. They are education, association and certification.

One, you might just learn a thing or two.
Consumer Network meetings in Miami focus on speakers who highlight informative subjects for consumers. Interesting people, from every walk of life, come and speak to our attendees about their areas of expertise. We’ve learned everything from how to give CPR to how to advocate for our rights. We’ve learned how to spot fraud and learned about the Jail Diversion Program. Police officers trained to intervene during a crisis (CIT officers) have shared their experiences at our meetings. Florida Representatives have spoken at our meetings. So, if you have a curious mind and really want to learn about all the services in your community, Consumer or Peer Networks are the way to go.

Two, your peers will be there, why not you?
Meetings are a chance to associate with other people from various programs. And remember, there is power in numbers. Listen, you can advocate as an individual and/or you can advocate as an organization with hundreds of members. Which do you think is most powerful? That’s why Consumer
Networks are important.

And three, emphasis is on developing peer leaders.
One way to advance one’s self is to become a Certified Peer Specialist. At our meetings we learn the requirements to become certified. We are the first to know when trainings are coming. And… agencies looking to fill a position with a consumer often come to the Consumer Network to announce job openings.

There are many reasons to attend Consumer Network and Peer Network meetings. Being in the know
has its advantages. So attend your local Consumer Network. If there isn't one in your area, you may want to start thinking about starting one. You can contact us with questions about getting started. Consumer Network meetings really are important.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

10 Tips to Help You Manage the Holidays with Grace by Stephanie Barker

Stephanie is a volunteer and member of both the Key Clubhouse of South Florida and Fresh Start Drop-in Center. Stephanie will soon be a Certified Peer Specialist upon exam completion. She is a real people-person and an active Street Advocate.

1. Managing an annoying, demanding or controlling person: Be polite, acknowledge that you are listening. Thank them for their input, saying “you could be right”. Then make an excuse and get up and leave the room. Do not promise to come back. Find somewhere to take a break, or take a walk. Do not participate, argue, or engage with the offending person. 

2. Do something simple and positive for yourself: Take a walk, do some exercise, buy yourself a small treat, pamper yourself, listen to your favorite music and dance or sing. 

3. Do something good for someone else: Make a call to someone who is sad or alone, smile at people, give some food to a homeless person; or any good deed you can think of. 

4. If you want to look up some jokes and be prepared to make someone laugh. 

5. Eat Tryptophan: This is a natural mood booster found in turkey, beans, and fresh green vegetables. 

6. Do not go to sleep early to avoid the day: Make yourself be as active as you can, engage in a hobby or do something you find enjoyable or generally do not take the time to do. Pass your time in a productive way that makes you feel good about yourself. 

7. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it: Research shows that even if you make yourself smile this sends signals to our brains which make us feel better. 

8. Make a gratitude list: Start with the basics like food, clothing and shelter. You will find you have more to add. Keep the list somewhere near you, or tape to your mirror where you will review it regularly.

9. Avoiding hugs or kisses under the Mistletoe: First thing find out where the Mistletoe is so you can avoid it. Look up in doorways and hanging lamps. Carry a package in front of you. Lean in like you are going to accept and quickly lean your shoulder in, or keep something in your hand. Give them a quick peck on the cheek, shake hands, or give them a pat on the back. 

10. How to get the kiss you want: Keep your eye discretely on the person you want to kiss, do not get in line. Wait until the last person is almost finished and approach quickly. (Only do this if you think the person may want to kiss you). If you are alone hug, pet or kiss a pet, hug a pillow, call someone and at the end of the conversation make smacking kisses into the phone. Kiss a movie star on TV, or kiss yourself in the mirror and tell yourself “I love me just the way I am”. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Intro to WRAP for the LGBTQ Community

This workshop introduced attendees to the five key concepts behind the development of the WRAP program, and its relation to mental wellness among lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) communities.

WRAP offers practical tools to assist in living with life’s challenges. People came and learned self-care techniques and set personal goals, all while receiving support in a LGBTQ friendly space.
Here are some comments from participants of the class …

“I have been to other WRAP trainings, but this was my first LGBTQ training.”

“The facilitators Alex, Jay and Sandra were excellent. They did a great job. I learned a lot about the LGBTQ community – a lot of my questions were answered.”

“… enlightening, empowering and thorough.”

“Learning about WRAP has given me a new tool to help others. And will help me to conduct my new job responsibilities.”

“The training was meaningful to me, and the handouts and materials were useful.”

“What I liked most about the training was the information that was provided by the facilitators – Jay and Alex.”

“What I liked most about the training was how the facilitators presented the (WRAP) program in a simple and understanding way. Next, I would like to go to the Leadership Training.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Annual Grantee Meeting for Statewide Consumer & Family Networks -- by A. Miryam Israel

               May 19th – 20th, (2016) SAMHSA held an annual grantee meeting for Statewide Consumer and Family Networks.  I accompanied our Consumer Network’s Project Director, Sandra McQueen-Baker to Rockville, Maryland and attended the conference with her. Here are some of my take-aways. 
                 Paolo del Vecchio, Center for Mental Health Services Director, addressed the grantees by presenting on health, home, purpose and community. He also discussed the new uses of technology connecting service recipients to supports.
               LaVerne Miller of Policy Research Associates made herself available for questions on the topic “Record Maintenance”.
                 During the breakout sessions I chose to attend “Developing Data Systems”.  I was hoping to learn how to make tracking data an easier, less painful process.  I left the session with a better appreciation for the reasons we use data in the first place.  Susan Foster from BRSS TACS helped me see the bigger picture. 
                 Nev Jones from the Felton Institute shared her expertise as a researcher and evaluator.  She clarified for me that we collect data to generate evidence, influence policy and make the case for what works. 
                 Sarah Nicholson shared Nebraska Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health’s inspiring growth.  Sarah pointed out the need for different levels of surveys, and for asking the right questions.
                   The general sessions and guest speakers were inspiring, but for me the breakout sessions were the most useful. They gave us practical suggestions to help us carry on the work of our Statewide Consumer Network .

Certified WRAP Facilitators Meets Matthew Federici

Matthew, sporting a red bowtie, surrounded by WRAP Facilitators.
Certified WRAP Facilitators took advantage of a special opportunity to meet the Executive Director from the Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery.

Immediately following the Awards Ceremony of the Mental Health Conference on May 11th, Matthew Federici held an informal discussion with a small group of Miami-Dade County WRAP facilitators.

The meeting focused on the Consumer Network's efforts to promote WRAP in South Florida, as well as new information and updates from the Copeland Center.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

WRAP® Trainers in Training

Cindy  Schwartz and Sandra McQueen-Baker were re-certified as Advanced Level WRAP Facilitators in Orlando, FL. on April 4-8, 2016.

The class was awed by the energy and expertise of the Copeland Center’s own Gina Calhoun.

Both Cindy and Sandra left knowing that their facilitation and presentation styles were forever changed.

Orlando WRAP Facilitators Being Re-certified 
Along with Cindy and Sandra.

Thanks to our hosts Maria Fuentes and Cameron Wood of the Mental Health Association, Orlando Florida.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

WRAP® Training for Young Adults, Orlando, FL

Maria Fuentes and Cameron Wood.  These two trainers held a 3-day WRAP workshop for Young Adults on March 23-25, 2016, at the University Behavioral Center in Orlando, Florida.

Fresh Start Statewide Consumer Network of Florida is grateful to SAMHSA for supporting the opportunity to go to Orlando and work with young adults.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Introduction to Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP); Supporting LGBTQ People

"Empowering people to soar!"
Miami, Florida;   May 2-4, 2016;   Register now!

This mental health recovery training is open to everyone who can demonstrate complete acceptance of diversity with relation to gender roles and sexual identity. Consumers of substance abuse and/or mental health services are invited. Peer Specialists and provider staff who serve the LGBTQ community, family members and others are all welcome and encouraged to come. 

Workshop Highlights

This workshop will introduce attendees to the five key concepts behind the development of the WRAP program, and its relation to mental wellness amongst lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) communities. WRAP offers practical tools to assist in living with life’s challenges. We invite you to come and learn self-care techniques, set personal goals, all while receiving support in a LGBTQ friendly space.

WRAP is a structured system that helps:
ü  Decrease and prevent intrusive or troubling feelings an behaviors
ü  increase personal empowerment and improve quality of life
ü  Assists people in achieving their own life goals and dreams

Lead Facilitator: Sandra McQueen-Baker, CRPS-A, Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator                      
Facilitators:  To be announced
Dates/Times:  May 2-4, 2016; 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Location:  Rohde Building, 401 NW 2nd Ave., Room N-423; Miami, Florida 33128
More Information
Ø  Training & materials are FREE!!!
Ø  Lunch, parking, travel & transportation costs are the responsibility of the participant
Ø  Must attend all 3 days for certificate of completion.

Continuing Education (CEUs) and/or Free 15 Training Hours

Fresh Start of Miami-Dade, Inc. (d/b/a Fresh Start Consumer Network of Florida) is an Approved Education Provider of the Florida Certification Board, Provider # 5118-A. CEUs will be provided during this training for CRPS- Certified Recovery Peer Specialists. Cost for CEUs: 15 for $15


Send an email to and ask for a registration form or call 305-623-9997 for more information.                                          

Friday, March 18, 2016

WRAP® Facilitator Refresher Course

About twenty people joined Advanced WRAP Facilitators Cindy Schwartz and Sandra McQueen-Baker for a WRAP Refresher in Miami, Florida. It was intended to sharpen their facilitation skills, and to help them further engage groups in the Wellness Recovery Action Planning.

                      Through attendance these WRAP Facilitators learned to...

1)    Give effective group introductions.
2)    Identify additional knowledge areas.
3)    Apply new skills to sharpen and expand group facilitation.
4)    Develop creative approaches  to accommodate participant challenges and differing group needs.

It is a best practice for WRAP Facilitators to take a refresher at least once every two years to maintain active status.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Who Can Benefit from Learning W R A P ?

     Although  WRAP® or  Wellness Recovery Action Planning® was developed by a group of people who had been dealing with difficult feelings and behaviors -- WRAP can  be  used  by everyone!
     The people who attended the latest Introduction to Wellness Recovery Action Planning workshops will tell you, WRAP is for them.

     On  January 27-29, 2016, Sarai Martin and Lincoln Toranzo of Banyan Health Systems facilitated a workshop in Spanish, introducing 25 people to WRAP. (top picture) And earlier, on January 13-15, a group that included veterans started their own WRAP plans while attending a workshop facilitated by Gina Ford,  Kishma Lewis and Sandra McQueen-Baker. (bottom picture)
     **People have been using WRAP for many years now. They report that having a WRAP plan helps them keep track of difficult feelings and behavior, and that having action plans in place helps them to feel better and get on with their lives.

      YOU can use WRAP to address other life issues like:

* Chronic or acute illness

* Addictions

* Breaking bad habits

* Losing weight

* Caring for an elderly family member

* Trying out new interests

     You could develop a separate WRAP to deal with each of these issues, or you could include these issues in one WRAP. 

     Wellness Recovery Action Plan® and WRAP® are registered trademarks.
**Copyright by Mary Ellen Copeland,   PO Box 301, W. Dummerston, VT 05357    Phone: (802) 254-2092
   E-mail:  Website: All rights reserved

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


On Friday, February 5th, 2016, I had the pleasure of attending a Mental Health First Aid training. This training was facilitated by Cindy Schwartz and Habsi Kaba. The purpose of Mental Health First Aid is to teach individuals how to respond in a mental health emergency and offer support to someone who appears to be in emotional distress.

During the training, we were educated on the signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and a variety of other mental health disorders. We learned that body language, the things we say and how well we listen to others (including verbal and non-verbal listening skills) can have a powerful impact on those individuals that are experiencing a mental health crisis. 

Overall, this training was helpful and informative and I highly recommend it to everyone.

CLAS: Culturally & Linguistically Appropriate Services

Guest speaker, Myriam Monsalve Serna, gave a presentation to The Consumer Network on January 12, 2016. Myriam talked about the importance for agencies to assess their adherence CLAS Standards. She gave a short history on CLAS and warned that all agencies and organizations that receive Federal funding must implement CLAS.

The new enhanced standards have three main goals: 1) to provide guidance, 2) implementing communication and language assistance, and 3) engaging and assessing community needs.

It is important for individuals and organizations to have a vision of what culturally and linguistically appropriate services will look like in practice. Myriam’s presentation gave everyone many practical examples.