Today we’d like to introduce you to Jordan Smelley.
Hi Jordan, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
When I think about my story and how far I have come in my recovery from Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities with co-occurring Mental Health diagnosis(es) due to an extremely rare genetic syndrome called Chung-Jansen Syndrome, I can’t help but be amazed and proud of myself. Before I get into my story, I want to share some of the interesting opportunities I have gotten to participate in because of how hard I have worked on my recovery.
1. I got to write a blog post for the Center of Adolescent Studies in California titled “3 Tips for Working with Youth with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Trauma.
2. I currently serve on the Texas HHSC Behavioral Health Advisory Committee as the Youth/Young Adult Representative as well as the current Co-Chair of the Texas HHSC Behavioral Health Advisory Committee.
3. I was a presenter for NAMI TEXAS 2020 conference, which was done as a virtual workshop because of COVID-19
4. I had the opportunity to advocate for and get Senator Zaffirini to file a bill during the 2021 Texas Legislative session to expand Peer Support Services to Individuals with IDD. It’s SB 1457 if you want to look it up.
5. Advocate for peer support to be expanded to individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities before the learning collaborative that was formed to help decided how to use the funding from the 2019 Texas Legislative session specifically for Outpatient Behavioral Health Services for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
6. First ever performer for Recovery’s Got Talent (Feb 7, 2018).
My recovery story starts in February of 2015. In February of 2015, I was at the lowest point in my life. I had gotten to the point I had no hope that I could improve to were I at least wasn’t struggling so much that I actually attempted to end my life while in a psychiatric hospital. After I attempted to end it while at a psychiatric hospital, I was sent to the state hospital in Wichita Falls, Texas. It was while I was at the state hospital that doctors figured out one of my most life-threatening issues was the medication I was put on towards the end of January 2015 was actually causing me to be more suicidal because after they stopped that particular medication, I slowly started to improve. While I was at the state hospital was when I started getting serious about my recovery as well as things were starting to make more sense to me.
On March 26, 2015, I was well enough that I was discharged from the state hospital and I got to go back home. After I was discharged in March of 2015, I really started working hard on my recovery by attending therapy, keeping psychiatrist appointments, and working with my peer support specialist. Two years later, I got to the point that I really didn’t need peer support anymore and I also realised that being a peer support specialist is something I could do for a career. After officially graduating from peer support services in spring of 2017, I started looking into what it would take to become a peer support specialist. I would end up spending the next two years continuing to work hard on my recovery as well as figuring out the steps needed to become a peer support specialist. In March of 2019, I actually took the exam and obtained the PRSS certification through Texas Certification Board as well as obtained the Young Peer Mentor Endorsement and the IC&RC designation. After obtaining my PRSS certification, I decided I wanted to go ahead and work on my next goal, which was obtaining the new MHPS certification, which is the Medicaid Billable certification here in Texas.
In May of 2019, I had the opportunity arise to take the MHPS Certification training and I passed the exam. After I passed the MHPS certification exam, I started looking for somewhere to do my 250 hours so I could go ahead and submit for the initial certification. While searching for somewhere to do my 250 hours, I learned that Texas Health and Human Services Commission has different advisory boards and that there was openings in the Texas HHSC Behavioral Health Advisory Committee and so I applied late in 2019. In April of 2020, I learned that my application for Texas HHSC Behavioral Health Advisory Committee was approved and I was selected as the Youth/Young Adult Representative. This was the best news I had gotten because every single peer support position I had interviewed for so far, I was turned down. While still trying to find a peer support position because the Texas HHSC Behavioral Health Advisory Committee position was a volunteer position, I had the opportunity arise to become a WRAP facilitator. WRAP stands for Wellness Recovery Action Plan.
I completed the WRAP Facilitator training in July of 2020 but needed more hands-on experience before going and facilitating with just anyone who is a certified WRAP Facilitator. This stipulation wasn’t a surprise to me because it took me going through the WRAP Seminar 1, which is a pre-requisite to the Facilitator Certification training five times before I was ready for the WRAP Facilitator training and I completed my extra hands-on training around October of 2020 and can now facilitate a small WRAP class. While waiting on opportunities of small WRAP classes to happen with the person that did my WRAP Facilitator training, I continued looking for a peer support position. In November of 2020, I reached out to Texas State Senator Judith Zaffirini about a bill she filed in the 2019 session for expanding peer support to individuals with IDD, asking her to please re-file the bill for the 2021 Texas Legislative Session. I actually got a reply and Senator Zaffirini agreed to refile the bill and accepted my offer to help however I can.
A few months later, I ended up getting a call from my VR counselor about a Mental Health Peer Support position opening with the Association of Persons Affected by Addiction in Dallas Texas. I ended up applying and actually got the position and I have been working for the Association of Persons Affected By Addiction in Dallas, Texas, since March 1st, 2021. My favorite part about working for APAA is how inclusive and supportive my bosses and co-workers have been for me because of the unique set of differences I have because I have Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities with co-occurring Mental Health diagnoses (es) as well as I wear leg braces. I also officiate Volleyball for Special Olympics Texas. If you only take one thing from my story, I hope that it’s even people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities can become a contributing member of society if given the proper resources and support.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It definitely hasn’t been a smooth road. Finding the right medications was one of the roughest parts for me. Also learning how to speak up for myself and that I have a voice in my treatment. Learning how to find resources. Learning how to advocate for what I need. Trusting psychiatrist all because I had one tell me when I saw them that they were only seeing me because I was just out of inpatient. Being open in therapy was a struggle because of all the trauma I have been through. Reaching out for help before I was in crisis was another struggle for me. Trying to make friends was and still is a struggle for me because of my uniqueness.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Currently I work for the Association of Persons Affected By Addiction in Dallas Texas as a Mental Health Peer Specialist. What sets me apart from my coworkers is my lived experience with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. I also on occasion do presentations for organizations on different topics related to individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. I think the biggest thing I am known for within the Peer Support field in Texas is my passion to expand peer support services to individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. I am also currently assisting Imagine Art in Austin Texas with their T4T project which is basically a project developing a certification pathway for IDD peer support because there currently isn’t a IDD specific peer support certification in Texas currently.
What are your plans for the future?
So I am going to continue advocating for peer support services to be expanded to individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Texas until it happens. I plan on obtaining the T4T certification through Imagine Art.
Right now I am waiting to hear back from NAMI TEXAS on if any of the three speaker proposals I submitted will be chosen for their 2021 conference. I should hear something by end of August 2021. I want to continue working for the Association of Persons Affected By Addiction for many years to come. I also will obtain the People Planning Together Certification at some point in the future I will facilitate the WRAP for people with developmental distinctions at some point in the future to Texans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Advocate for Texas Workforce Commission Vocational Rehabilitation Program to start offering Peer Support Services to their consumers.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Website: www.jordansmelleyprss.com