Michael Roaleen, founder and director of the Recovery Academy (RA), has over 40 years of experience in a variety of mental health settings. He is responsible for managing the day to day operations of RA as well as guiding the strategic direction of the program. He is a pioneer in recovery concepts and his leadership of RA has stemmed from a deep belief in the power of lived experience.
His past roles include serving as live-in supervisor of a specialized residential home, a lead staff of a crisis facility, and a mental health advocate for Harbinger an Assertive Community Treatment Agency. While at Harbinger, he created the position of vocational specialist, providing skills training, support, and employer advocacy to assist consumers to “choose, get, keep” employment. In this capacity, he hired and supervised the first peer support consumer in Kent County.
Michael is also a strong advocate for persons with mental health difficulties. He has served as President of Michigan US-PRA (United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association) for 3 years; President of Kent County NAMI (National Association on Mental Illness) for 5 years; and member of MCMHB (Michigan Community Mental Health Boards) mental health coalition, legislative and policy committees for 2 years. He is currently a board member of iNAPS (International Association of Peer Supports).
Michael was involved in the development and teaching of Michigan’s PCP Technical Manual Community Mental Health staff. He has facilitated peer support trainings, and conducted workshops for over a dozen conferences, both state and national. He is certified as a Peer Support Specialist and has taught Peer Support Specialist classes in Ohio and Texas.
Michael continues to be treated for depression since college and has used his personal experience as a foundation for his advocacy and profession. He also has experience with addiction, both as an adult child of an alcoholic, and as a recovering alcoholic. Mike continues to be a pioneer in recovery concepts that has led to the founding and operation of the Recovery Academy (RA). RA is a peer operated program, providing skill building classes, mentoring and advocacy for anyone interested in their personal recovery. He co-authored a proposal for Kent County community mental health, and established and directed the Recovery Academy for 6 years with outstanding outcomes. Staff and students of the Recovery Academy participated in and provided input into two pilot programs from Boston University: Vocational Peer Support and Recovery to Practice.
Michigan state budget cuts resulted in closure of the program from Network180. The parents of a former student believed in the program and its impact on their son to the extent that they have worked tirelessly to arrange private funding. Recovery Academy continues to be a vibrant and growing community resource with plans to expand beyond the local community. RA is unique, as it is a living, breathing and evolving philosophy of peer support and recovery. The international mental health community deserves to be informed of a recovery model that works.
PEER SUPPORT SPECIALISTS/EDUCATORS
Michelle (Shelly) Rebollar is a peer support specialist and educator at Recover Academy. Shelly teaches a variety of classes at the academy, and she is passionate about helping others. In her own words:
I’m here today to tell you my story. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder with Suicidal Ideologies, and Borderline Personality. I am not my labels. I am a wonderfully warm woman who stands here before you by the grace of God and Recovery Academy.
I have struggled all my life with my borderline personality. Borderline Personality caused me to make bad decisions and act out constantly, looking for attention. I started drinking every day. This only exaggerated my symptoms. I was reckless sexually, drove my car in a fast and reckless manner driving drunk and started arguments and fights. This pushed people away from me.
I have tried to commit suicide six times but each time God pulled me back. I believe He pulled me back to become a Certified Peer Support Specialist to help others who need someone who understands and cares.
I have worked most of my life in a customer service capacity. You could say I am in that same field of service as I teach life skills to people who have lost their way and count myself blessed that I am here for them. I prefer to call it “loving them well”.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the medical definition for recovery is “The act of regaining or returning toward a normal or healthy state”. This is what I strive for every day. In 2011, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety. Like many who have a mental illness, I had been in denial that there was anything wrong with me because that’s the way I was raised. It was through my counseling and the classes I attended at Recovery Academy that I began to understand who I am as a person and be able to start my recovery process. All my life I always tried to mold myself around what others told me I should be like, now I’ve molded myself into whom I’m meant to be. As I was growing up I was told “If you can’t do it right the first time, don’t do it at all”. This saying followed me in everything I did. Fortunately today I no longer have this as my mantra.
I’ve had various things happen throughout my lifetime that contributed to my illness; I’m a survivor of domestic violence, I used to harm myself in a non-safe manner, I overcame homelessness, and I made it through a crisis situation where I wanted to commit suicide. Throughout all of this, my therapy, attending classes at Recovery Academy, and hard work got me through it.
I started taking classes at Recovery Academy in 2013 to learn coping skills to help with my mental illness. Because of what I was learning, I knew that working with people is what I wanted to do. I took the Peer Support Specialist Training so I would be able to assist others by listening, sharing resources, and hopefully help them with their individual situations.
Through my volunteering and my prior work experience, I was given the opportunity to join the staff of Recovery Academy as the Office Manager. Some of my prior experience includes:
- 25+ years’ experience as an Executive Assistant
- Secretary of the Year for Grand Rapids
- President of the Grand Rapids Chapter of IAAP (International Association of Administrative Professionals)
- Volunteer for Cedar Springs Cub Scouts, Cedar Springs Band Boosters, Business Professionals of America, Help Pregnancy Crisis Center and Recovery Academy
I am the first person to greet and receive our clients, making them feel comfortable and wanted. I believe I am an asset to Recovery Academy, due in part to my regaining and returning to a healthy state of being. I truly feel that this is where I am supposed to be. I look forward to what journeys lie ahead.