Forsyth County Stepping Up Peer Support Specialist Al Thomas received a Sally Zinman Lifetime Achievement Award during the 36th Annual Alternatives Conference held by the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery.
The lifetime achievement award is given to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the peer recovery movement throughout the course of their career. It’s named after Sally Zinman who was a pioneer in the mental health peer movement.
Thomas is a National Certified Peer Specialist with a forensic enhancement and a WRAP trainer and facilitator. Peer support specialists have lived experiences that let them model recovery, teach skills, provide hope and offer support to their peers who are recovering from substance abuse or mental health issues. He works with men in the Stepping Up Program to End Recidivism (SUPER), which provides support services to those with mental health and/or substance use issues after release from the Forsyth County Detention Center and those who are criminal justice involved.
Thomas is author of two books: The Blackout Life Plan and Blueprint to Wellness. He also teaches a 96-hour hybrid Peer Support course at Durham Technical Community College.
“Like Sally, I too would like to continue my efforts and the work that she started by training others to be more effective in communicating and reducing the stigma in the mental health field,” said Thomas in his acceptance video. “I would like to challenge the saying that goes ‘One rotten apple spoils a whole bunch’ and to investigate a little deeper into the seed that was planted in the first place.”
Stepping Up Program Supervisor Amber Humble said Thomas is well-deserving of this award.
“Through his own journey through recovery, Al learned it was important he give back by sharing his own experiences,” she said. “He is able to connect with the participants in a way many of us cannot. He provides a shining example on what recovery looks like as well as a hand of hope to help them along their path.”
The Alternatives Conference, which was held virtually this year, is planned and implemented for and by people in the peer recovery movement to come together and share their lived experience with one another.