Peer Wellness and Recovery Services, Inc. (PWRS) was established in September 2011 and is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation located in Montgomery County, Maryland. PWRS supports the peer wellness and recovery movement by providing a variety of services in partnership with local, state, federal, and private service providers. The majority of our board and staff have been both recipients of mental health and/or substance use services and brokers of such services to our peers. Although PWRS is new, we are quickly becoming active in Montgomery County and in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
Recovery is not a set outcome but a personal journey — and one that evolves from development of hope, a secure sense of self, supportive relationships, empowerment, social inclusion, coping skills, and a sense of purpose.
Miriam Yarmolinsky is the Founder and Executive Director of PWRS. Miriam formerly ran the Silver Spring Wellness & Recovery Center at Affiliated Santé Group for seven years, after serving on a consumer steering committee for the creation of the center. Miriam, through PWRS, has held a number of pro-bono workshops ranging from arts to dealing with clutter to internalized stigma, to affordable health care, stroke awareness, and various recovery groups; recently (summer 2013) finished a highly successful Peer Employment Pilot Project offering seven session job clubs to individuals with substance use and co-occurring disorders in halfway houses and clinical treatment facilities, in collaboration with Ed "Bunny" Rich from Maryland Treatment Centers and Larry Abramson, former long time director of St. Luke's House (now Cornerstone Montgomery) Back to Work Program. In addition, PWRS offers consultation to treatment providers on embedding peer services and making clients’ experience more beneficial.
Miriam is certified as an Advanced Level WRAP® (Wellness & Recovery Action Planning) Facilitator; as a Train the Trainer Recovery Coach instructor through CCAR (Connecticut Community on Addiction Recovery), and as a Recovery Coach. She has been a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Peer-to-Peer mentor, and continues leading NAMI Connection support groups for over eight years. Miriam is well versed in the Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC) philosophy, that is applied in substance use services. Miriam’s is a Maryland Certified Community Work Incentives Counselor) through Maryland Department of Disabilities and is a registered DORS (Dept. of Rehab, MD) vendor for benefits counseling. Miriam is certified as a practitioner of Emotional CPR (e-CPR), also October 2013. She anticipates the certification of Peer Recovery Specialists in Maryland.
Miriam recently presented on Art and Recovery (September 2013) for the Provider Council of Montgomery County, MD, on both her personal recovery art experience as well as results from the two Beyond Words six session groups held this past year. She was a featured speaker for a breakout session on Holistic Health at a conference at Northern Virginia Community College, October 2013 (Together on the Pathway to Wellness, sponsored by Wellness and Recovery Committee, Northern Virginia Mental Health Foundation, Inc., Northern Virginia Community College - Office of Student Mental Health and Behavior, and Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board).
Miriam has an A.S. in Advertising Design from Montgomery College; and a B.S. in Family Studies and graduate certificate in Vocational Rehabilitation, both from University of Maryland. She has served on the Board of On Our Own of Maryland; currently serves on the Advisory Board of Housing Unlimited, Inc.; and is a member of the Peer Integrated Care Advisory Council at the Mental Hygiene Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs. She is a recent board member of Instruments of Healing, and participates in the executive committee of Peer to Peer Progress in Recovery. Miriam is a lapsed visual artist, a recalcitrant writer, and has a keen interest in kitchen gardens.
Maggie has been closely involved in developing and implementing support and education programs for people living with mental health issues. In her nearly 30 years at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), she was instrumental in creating the In Our Own Voice program; the predecessor to the NAMI Connection support group, including facilitator training; and the Peer-to-Peer recovery education program. Locally, Maggie has participated as a local Peer-to-Peer mentor and support group facilitator. She served as a consumer outreach coordinator for NAMI Montgomery County and NAMI Maryland board member.
Maggie has spoken about her personal experience and the importance of peer support to such diverse groups as Capitol Hill aides, C-SPAN, The Washington Post, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, local and state NAMIs. Maggie has a BA in psychology and is currently pursuing certification as a horticultural therapist.
Herbert Simmens is the owner of District Wellness, a health center near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. District Wellness provides acupuncture, massage, yoga and other wellness services to the community. He is also a wellness and life coach.
Over a long career he has managed several state and local government agencies which had responsibility among other functions for a wide variety of mental health programs and services. He has also been head of long range planning for the state of New Jersey, Executive Director of two non profit environmental agencies, and has taught government and urban planning at several colleges.
Shannon Flynn Lewis, MA is a peer living with bipolar disorder for most of her life, decided that her calling was to give back the healing she had received in recovering from her condition, when hospitalized for the first time at age 17. She later obtained degrees in Psychology, Art Therapy and Mental Health Counseling and has worked with other peers as an art therapist, counselor and support group facilitator. Shannon also has worked on a full-time basis with people living with schizophrenia, on the team at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that researches genetic and environmental causes of and treatments for this condition.
Shannon has served as a behavioral health advocate for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), both as a trainer and curriculum writer for the “NAMI Connections” support group model, and as Research Committee Chair on the NAMI Consumer Council in the late 1990s. She has presented on peer research; art therapy as a wellness tool; and on her personal recovery journey at conferences such as those held by NAMI, Mental Health America and the United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (USPRA). In addition, Shannon has published a “Personal Accounts” article in the journal, “Psychiatric Services”; contributed a book chapter to “Voices of Bipolar”; and self-published her memoir, “Spin between Never and Ever” in recent years.
Wanting to become more involved in the mental health field from the peer perspective, Shannon was enthusiastic about joining the board of Peer Wellness and Recovery Services, headed by long-time colleague and powerhouse advocate Miriam Yarmolinsky. During fiscal year 2012 she served as Treasurer for PWRS and now is a regular Board member who contributes through advising on programming (such as the “Beyond Words” artistic workshops) and is getting her feet wet doing grant-writing. She plans to study for her PhD in Psychiatric Rehabilitation at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, doing work on wellness as it is facilitated by peers for each other.
Joanne Growney was for many years a mathematics professor at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania. An active scholar who investigated links between mathematics and the arts, Growney also published a textbook (McGrawHill, 1986) and numerous other teaching materials. Beyond teaching, she served the university in several short-term administrative positions (Director of Planning, Coordinator for Middle States Re-Accreditation, Director of Teaching and Learning Enhancement, and interim Provost). Her community service activities included a six-year term as a school-board member.
After early retirement Growney moved to Maryland and she has devoted recent years to poetry (and to its connections with mathematics). She has published three collections of her own poems and has co-edited an anthology of poems that are math-related. Currently she writes a popular blog, “Intersections – Poetry with Mathematics.”
JoAnne Growney’s membership on the PWRS board has stemmed from her multi-year engagement with mental health clients through poetry classes. She loves words and numbers and teaching.
Gregory Mansfield has been a strong supporter of peer services ever since he initially joined a peer-run steering committee in the mid 2000s.
Dagmar Lemich brings over 40 years experience in the accounting field to PWRS. She has worked for large and small companies in the fields of retail, non-profit, health and wellness, banking, research and development and a major public school system. In most of these positions, Dagmar assumed a supervisory status. She is also an experienced small business owner and has provided consulting services to many other small businesses.
Diane Broadnax, LICSW has worked as a licensed clinical social worker in the Washington D.C area for more than 30 years in healthcare management, hospital, and community-based services, and well as mental health research. She has experience with large managed care organization, directed a community based case management and drug treatment programs, and worked for KPMG/Bearing Point on the Health Care Financing and Administration consulting team.
Most recently, she manages patient assessments for Childhood Onset Schizophrenia for the National Institutes of Mental Health and has been recently appointed to the Board of Directors for Frederick County Department of Social Services. She also consults for Brats Without Borders, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness about the unique culture of military children, a heritage she has written about often, sharing her experience as a daughter of a General in the US Army, chronicling an uncharted perspective of race, culture and identity. In addition to exploring issues on military heritage, she enjoys supporting mental health and wellness initiatives programs such as PWRS and continues to be a strong advocate for the mental health awareness.
Donna is an attorney with the Office of General Counsel at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C. Donna litigated disability and employment issues in the private sector for over a decade before turning her attention to legal and policy issues related to national security.
By night (and weekends), Donna writes and draws Reply All, a daily four-panel comic strip currently in its second year of syndication with the Washington Post Writers Group. Based on the success of Reply All, the Washington Post Writers Group recently began syndication of Reply All Lite, a daily one-panel cartoon.