MEET JEN

I was raised in Sarasota, Florida where ecology and respect for natural habitats came naturally to me. The most disconcerting thing was how people managed to “improve” the area until they effectively ruined the natural beauty that drew people to the area in the first place. (tourism is the main source of income in Florida) Sadly, the state has a huge problem with sex crimes. Miami was the AIDS and rape capital of the US, domestic violence and child abuse are rampant as well. In the ’80s, a drug and rehabilitation program called Straight Inc was popular, I began hearing stories of abuse in the program, mental health services were cut under the Reagan administration but the problems remained. Just say no, became a battle cry and a reason to prey on vulnerable teens and parents scared to death their child was in danger.

I became interested in mental health during training as a Guardian Ad Litem where I learned the abuse cycle was a learned one and people could change if they put in the work to change. I would research the child’s needs, conduct interviews, and speak for the child in court.

I taught a class called The nurturing program where parents and children were taught compatible skills to help strengthen their families. I received a thank you from both President Bush and the Supreme Court of Florida for my work with these programs.

Today, I work at Monarch Behavioral Health as a Peer Support Specialist. A peer is someone trained to help those challenged by substance abuse, mental health issues, or personal trauma.

A big part of the job is encouraging and researching them to reach their goals and live a life meaningful to them. Jokes aside, there is a link between politics and mental health. When laws are unjust, when people feel they are on the outside looking in, fringe, not a part of the community you see increases in crime, gang activity, drug use, and violence. State representatives are charged with presenting the best interests of their district, in terms of introducing or supporting laws and amendments. They also serve as political spokespeople for issues that are important to their state and district and are accountable to those they represent. Representatives are people who listen, research a solution, and keep a goal in mind for the best interests of the people served.

Jen