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TCL In-Reach Manager Margaret Rivers Uses Experience to Help Others

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Cardinal Innovations Healthcare In-Reach Manager and Person-Centered Thinking Trainer Margaret Rivers has been a pioneer for the Transitions to Community Living Initiative since the beginning, according to TCL leaders.

Rivers was the first In-Reach Specialist hired in 2013. She has taken her experience as a Certified Peer Support Specialist, a person in recovery living with a mental illness, and served to set the example of the role of an In-Reach Specialist at Cardinal Innovations and across the state.

“As the first In-Reach Specialist, she expanded her expertise to becoming a supervisor and is now a manager for TCL with a staff of 17. She encourages open communication with not only her current supervisees and In-reach team, but also amongst the entire TCL team," said former TCL Director Larry Swabe, who nominated Rivers for a Cardinal Leads Award earlier this year.

“Margaret has a passion that serves her well and that is evident in the excellent service she provides to others. Regardless of whether she is talking with a member of executive leadership or a Cardinal Innovations member in an Adult Care Home, she treats all with respect, dignity and the highest level of excellence," Swabe wrote in his nomination. “She partners extremely well with others and has developed the ability to empower others. She will ask the tough questions and will propose creative ideas to any revealed barriers."

Rivers said her passion for her work stems from her personal experience with mental illness. Rivers said her mother lived with schizophrenia most of her adult life.

“I grew up with my first Peer Support Specialist, my mother, before I knew what a Peer Support Specialist was," Rivers said. “Through her life, my mother had instilled hope in me that being diagnosed with a mental illness is not a death sentence. After seeing her raise seven children mostly by herself and through her belief in God, she showed me that I can overcome any challenge and turn it into my biggest strength."

In 2001, Rivers had a breakdown and was diagnosed with Shared Delusion Disorder. She said she lost everything – family, friends, her career as a teacher, her freedom, her dreams, her future and the life that she pictured for herself. She spent three years institutionalized, she said.

“At the beginning, it was only through the love and support from my mother and my own spirituality that prevented me from giving up on life," Rivers said. “After grieving my old life and opening the chapter on my new life, things quickly changed for me."

Service providers encouraged Rivers to direct her treatment. Her team flooded her with different options of services and housing including assisting her in moving into Support Housing program in 2003 in Clover, S.C., through a program that was similar to the TCL program.

Rivers also is known for helping to expand her colleagues' perspective when it comes to giving individuals the ability to experience their life the way they would like and giving them the “dignity of risk." This mindset has stuck with many employees that have been working with her and has motivated others to instill the same expectations among their teams, according to Rivers' Cardinal Leads Nomination.

She explained that sometimes members have not been allowed basic things such as deciding to go see a movie, choosing the time of the day to meet with a provider, when to eat or when to go to sleep.

“The most disheartening and humbling thing to see is one of the TCL members crying with happiness that she was offered the opportunity to pick out the flavor of her ice cream during a shopping trip with one of the TCL Team members," Rivers said.

“Looking back, I realized that my team never limited me because I had a mental illness. They provided opportunities, education, and on-going support and services that has helped me to become the woman I am today," Rivers said. “I am living proof that with hope and the right type of support/services, a person with a mental illness can life a full rewarding life."

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