Cherene is a psychiatric, trauma and suicide attempt survivor who has made the last 28 years her personal and professional mission to understand how services and systems can either foster wellness, healing and a high quality of life or can harm the process of recovery.
She was first introduced to mental health services at the age of 13 when she was given the first of 8 mental health diagnoses along with a label of “severe and persistent mental illness.” Cherene had to recover from the impact of pathology-based mental health services along with the trauma that led her to becoming a service recipient.
Now, with nearly 3 decades of serving people and 2 decades as a consultant, Cherene uses her personal and professional experience to support service providers, states, managed care organizations, hospitals and systems to operationalize mental health recovery and trauma-informed organizational, practice and systems change.
In 2005/2006, Cherene started Promise Resource Network (PRN), a peer-operated and staffed non-profit organization serving people that are uninsured who experience complex combinations of mental health, substance use challenges, houselessness and incarceration. The organization operates 16 programs including 24/7 crisis alternatives to emergency department and involuntary commitment, jail and prison diversion and re-entry, forensic peer support in specialty courts (Recovery, Wellness, Treatment, Youth/Family, Superior, District), open access Recovery Hub, and houselessness to homeownership programs. For its efforts, PRN has been ranked the 2021 2nd Best Non-Profit in the Country to Work For and was featured by NBC in November for its work with peer-run hospital diversion, recovery-oriented policy, and trauma-informed crisis prevention and response.
In 2019, Cherene started Peer Voice NC, a statewide movement of people directly impacted by mental health issues to organize and mobilize around legislative and practice change. This last legislative session, 4 bills with bi-partisan support were introduced aimed at reducing the use of mental health related confinement, establishing open access peer-run alternatives to psychiatric commitment, and introducing non-police community response alternatives with people experiencing mental health, poverty related, and/or substance use crises. Cherene is honored to have been named the 2021 Innovator of the Year by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.