As you know (or should know by now as a dedicated fan of Thoughtcrimes), I am on MHRAC (Mental Health Response Advisory Committee), the CIT, Inc. board, and BCFIC (Bernalillo County Forensic Intervention Consortium) executive committee. What do these three entities have in common? They are all intended to help peers in their involvement with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. To those ends, I endorse each entity as being very successful and progressive in their efforts and deliverables, as well as their recognition of how important it is for peers to be at the table in an advisory role.

Still, every so often a major faux pas comes along that truly needs more than advice, it requires absolute guidance and effectiveness. Let me give you the most recent example of just this, which is an “easy” fix (potentially and foreseeably, over a moderately tedious time span) because it is merely a change of a single word. Here it is:

Targeted Population

“Targeted Population” is a very widely-employed and accepted term meaning “Those peers who are the focus of this service/policy/law/etc.” Essentially, the “targeted population” are the peers who will benefit from these specific endeavors.

Remember, the reason for MHRAC is because, to be exactingly blunt, APD has a poor track record when it comes to deadly force/use of force incidents with individuals like me (bipolar, PTSD, schizoaffective disorder, etc.), my best gal (similar cornucopia of diagnoses), all sorts of folks at DBSA Albuquerque, all sorts of folks within the behavioral health community whom are close friends… we need a way to ensure the most positive and productive encounters between police and peers. And thusly, MHRAC, BCFIC, etc.

So, here’s the problem with “targeted population” when developing policies and services for peers, particularly those policies and services that directly involve law enforcement:

What do you think of when “targeted population” is used in conjunction with APD?

Be honest. It suggests that peers are the target of police policies aimed (ha!) at controlling peers in crisis, or in the worst case scenario an actual physical target, and it does not suggest peers are the recipients of police-involved services designed to make our lives better.

No matter who you are, who wants to be targeted by people with guns?

The irreverence, simplification, and flippancy of this statement is purposeful because this is how “targeted population” comes off when it is used in MOUs, SOPs, etc. Peers already distrustful of law enforcement here in Albuquerque will feel it’s just “more of the same.”

As a peer who works closely with law enforcement, the criminal justice system, providers, politicians, etc., I am here to say that “targeted population” is meant as a good thing and not a “open season on peers” thing. Please believe me and let me prove this to my fellow peers. In order to address this properly, what solution is available when drafting these MOUs, SOPs, etc.?

Everything is branding, everything is marketing, and everything comes down to the pitch.

Fortunately, with the concept clearly defined – “We want to create good things to help peers who need the help the most” – a very slight alteration of “targeted population” is the solution. How to sell this to peers? Lots of exposition, and here’s the payoff:

Use “Affected Population” instead of “Targeted Population.”

How much better does that feel? Personally, I totally dig this one-word shift in the narrative, and in numerous peer focus groups I’ve held, switching out “targeted” to “affected” truly brings the purpose and the presentation under one roof. Peers get it, that what I’m doing with MHRAC, BCFIC, etc. is meant to help us with our lives.

“Affected Population” has also been a success with providers at UNM (anecdotally) who have begun switching “affected” for “targeted” in many presentations to peers, both inpatient and outpatient. Reports are that peers are much more receptive to listening, understanding, and adopting new services and new policies as a result of using “affected population.”

“Affected Population” is gaining acceptance and momentum, and the more we peers insert this into the dialog – whenever a connotatively icky word like “targeted” comes up – the more involved we will be in the necessary changes in the system, and the more empowered we will be in designing the solutions to our issues, concerns, and needs.

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, vote “YES” on “Affected Population” for a better today and tomorrow for peers.

What a goofy way to close off this entry in the Recovery Journey of Steve Bringe. Stands to reason. I do me very well.

Lovingly dedicated to my pal Barri.