Memoir explores CCSR peer educator's road to recovery
After a lifetime of battling a debilitating mental illness, Nancy Jensen finally found a way to take control of her life.
Jensen, now a peer educator in Wichita State’s Center for Community Support and Research (CCSR), spent about 30 years in the mental health system and lived for more than a year at the Kaufman House in Newton, Kan. Although the home was thought to be a progressive treatment center for those with mental illnesses, residents were abused by its two owners.
With the help of Jensen’s and other survivors’ testimony in federal court, a jury found the Kaufmans guilty of crimes such as servitude, slavery and Medicare fraud.
Recently, Jensen published “The Girl Who Cried ‘Wolf’!,” a book about growing up with mental illness, her journey through the mental health system, time spent at Kaufman House, testimony against the Kaufmans and eventual road to recovery.
“The book came from wanting to share the possibility of recovery with whoever reads it,” said Jensen. “It doesn’t have to be someone who struggles with mental health; it could be a family member or provider.”
Jensen said that the most rewarding part of her work is helping people take control of their own lives.
“It is exciting to see all the certified peer specialists when their jobs are going well,” she said. “They see how their lives have impacted the lives of others in a good way and for a positive change.”
Changing the narrative
With the help of CCSR, Jensen is now a peer educator, member of the Peer Specialists Training Team and is a certified facilitator of the Wellness Recovery Action Plan, a tool to help people cope with stress and crises.
“Certified peer specialist (CPS) training through CCSR was a big part of my recovery,” she said. “The definition of recovery that we use in training was an ‘a-ha’ moment for me; it’s the idea that you can gain control of your life and develop the life you want on the other side of the diagnosis.”
In 2006, Jensen attended a conference where she met some of the CCSR staff and learned about recovery for the first time. She began working for the center in 2007.
Since starting at CCSR, Jensen has been able to function without medication and has shifted away from depending on Social Security disability so that she can work full time.
“CCSR has given me opportunities to continue my educational and professional growth,” she said.
Jensen has also worked to pass a law to create a unit in the attorney general’s office for those who are being abused, neglected and exploited. She received the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services and Administration 2006 Voice Award and is a member of the Sedgwick County Mental Health Advisory Board.
“Nancy has turned her personal story from one of hardship to one of courage and hope,” said Kevin Bomhoff, CCSR’s director of strategic development. “She uses the power of peer support to guide others as they change the narrative in their lives.”
The Center for Community Support and Research at WSU has served Kansas for more than 29 years by partnering with communities and organizations to strengthen the state through education, leadership development, facilitation and research.
Located at WSU’s downtown center, the CCSR is a part of WSU’s psychology department and provides assistance to self-help groups, nonprofit organizations, community coalitions, faith-based initiatives and government entities.
Bomhoff said that most recently, CCSR has started a new initiative working closely with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and local health departments to more effectively serve the Kansas Medicaid population.
For more information on Wichita State’s CCSR and its services, go to www.wichita.edu/ccsr.