For years, Janet Paleo hid from the world. After being hospitalized for two years — and then 50 more times in a decade — health care professionals said there was no hope for her. She shut down. Everything hurt. And then she met a provider who was also a peer; someone who had experienced tragedy of her own and who could validate her pain.
And Janet was inspired to pursue a new path.
Today, Janet is using her experiences to make a difference for other diagnosed individuals. In her role as director for recovery-based services for the Texas Council of Community Centers, she mentors others along their recovery journey, while helping providers better understand how to make a difference in the lives of the people they serve.
Janet has also started Positive Reinforced Outlook (PRO) International, a consulting company, and Prosumers International, a nonprofit through which she trains people in resiliency and empowers them to create lives they love. In this spotlight, the newest recipient of the National Council’s Peer Specialist of the Year Award opens up about the award and its meaning:
- On being recognized for her efforts: “To be recognized by my office and the National Council is so gratifying. I have dedicated my life to having peers find recovery and use their experiences to help others. I do this with no thought of thanks, and then to be nominated … it was such a treat. To bring the experience full circle — to be chosen by the National Council for this award — is more than I could have ever hoped for.
- On helping people throughout Texas thrive: “The Texas Council of Community Centers works with 39 organizations that cover all 254 counties. We are dedicated to ensuring our members get the advice, strategic planning and assistance they need to provide the best services possible for people struggling with mental health and/or addiction issues. I am very proud to be part of the public mental health system in Texas, as we develop a well-trained peer workforce and more trauma-aware, recovery-based, peer-provided services. The people we serve have access to effective services that are not usually available in private organizations!”
- On using the award to maximize her impact: “The National Council has a wide footprint and is well-respected throughout the world. To be recognized by them for the work I do is a huge step for the Texas Council of Community Centers’ name recognition, and it will help me amplify my voice for the betterment of peers everywhere.”
- On what fuels her to make a mark each day: “Personal power comes with personal responsibility. No matter the issue, every person has the ability to live a life they love. By taking responsibility for your life and focusing on that which lights you up, you can take whatever has stopped you in life and have that propel you forward.”
The Peer Specialist of the Year Award, a staple of the National Council’s annual Awards of Excellence program, recognizes an individual with lived experience who works in a health care organization and uses his or her strengths to help peers on their road to recovery.