About Keep The Promise
KTP: ADVOCACY AND ACTION FOR CONNECTICUT’S MENTAL HEALTH ACROSS THE LIFESPAN!
Keep the Promise Coalition is dedicated to advocating for a comprehensive, community mental health system across the lifespan since 1999. Won’t you join us?
The Keep the Promise Coalition was organized in 1999 when the Connecticut Legal Rights Project (CLRP) convened a meeting of mental health advocates to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court decision in L.C. v Olmstead which prohibited the unjustified institutionalization of persons with disabilities. They documented the lack of housing and community services required to implement the decision, while $13.6 million went from the mental health to the general fund when hospitals closed. As a result, vulnerable people were trapped in jails, nursing homes, shelters and emergency rooms. Similarly, children’s services were almost impossible to access, creating hospital gridlock and relegating many youth with behavioral health problems to the juvenile justice system. As the Hartford Courant noted, “Psychiatric hospitals have been shut down, but care on the community level has not measured up to promises.“ The Coalition demanded that the State “Keep the Promise” and invest in the housing and community services necessary to promote full community integration
From the outset KTP influenced policymakers and elected officials, successfully advocating for peer engagement services and statewide jail diversion programs. They were among the groups that supported the Governor’s decision to create a Blue Ribbon Commission on Mental Health (BRC), and KTP members were actively involved in the BRC’s work and report which was issued in July, 2000. The coalition adopted the blue ribbon as its logo, symbolizing support for the BRC’s recommendations as a blueprint for improving the mental health of all Connecticut residents.KTP quickly became recognized as Connecticut’s leading voice on mental health issues, with more than forty agencies and organizations participating in the coalition. The coalition has played a lead role on a range of issues, including juvenile justice reform, services for youth aging out of DCF, alternatives to incarceration, integrated health services, school based health centers, mental health parity, peer interventions and supports, housing and homelessness, civil rights and discrimination, early intervention and prevention. In 2010 the coalition sponsored a gubernatorial candidate forum on children’s mental health, and established a children’s committee as a forum to discuss these issues. More recently, as DCF reduced residential options for children, KTP questioned whether the state was repeating the mistakes made when state hospitals closed, by failing to invest savings in needed services. In 2015, agencies focused on children’s services established a separate advocacy group to specifically address those issues. However, KTP continues to advocate on housing and mental health issues throughout the lifespan.
KTP maintains its focus on assuring that Connecticut provides the comprehensive range of housing, supports and services that persons of every age need to maintain good health, including mental health, and play an active role in the community. In order to accomplish this goal, advocacy is required on all levels of government, and KTP is committed to doing all that it can to assuring that the voices of people with lived experience are heard when decisions are being made.
Chairs of Keep The Promise Coalition
Jan Van Tassel, Esq. –
Jan Van Tassel is now the former co-chair of the Keep the Promise Coalition. Jan retired in June of 2015 after having been CLRP’s Executive Director since 1998, as well as a public interest attorney for nearly thirty-five years. A 1977 graduate of Suffolk University Law School in Boston, she spent a year as a VISTA volunteer in Idaho before moving to Connecticut to work with legal services doing policy advocacy work at the State Capitol. She had a three year hiatus in New Mexico, where she worked at the Institute of Public Law, and spent six very long years managing the Alternate Care Unit (community services) of DSS, before she returned to legal services as the Executive Director of the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut.
While at LARCC, Jan founded the Connecticut Alliance for Basic Human Needs and was a leading activist on public benefits, elder and disability issues. Jan serves on the Board of the CT Housing Coalition and the Advisory Board of the Office of Victim Services and is a member of the CT Bar Association’s House of Delegates. Jan also has a master’s degree in History from Tufts University and has had several articles published.
Paul Acker –
Paul Acker is co-chair of the Keep the Promise Coalition and Chief of Staff at Advocacy Unlimited in New Britain, CT. He started his career at InterCommunity as a rehab counselor and was promoted to coordinator within just three months. He became Assistant Director, then Acting Executive Director of Focus on Recovery United (FORU). A long time Coalition Member, Paul is both an advocate and a consumer, and continues to be a strong proponent of community-based mental health services. Of note: He is the first consumer co-chair of KTP, and is also the 2010 winner of Keep the Promise Coalitions “Extra Mile*” Award.” Paul was recognized as the 2009 Advocate of the Year by the US Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association of CT (USPRA-CT).
Kristie Barber –
Kristie Barber is co-chair of Keep the Promise Coalition, and the Executive Director of the Region II, Regional Mental Health Board which evaluates and advocates for community-based mental health services in 36 towns in South Central Connecticut. She became interested in KTP because of its grassroots nature and its proven effectiveness at the state capitol. Kristie is a natural advocate for people’s right to be treated fairly regardless of any obvious, hidden or perceived differences or disabilities. While employed at Yale New Haven Hospital, she received the Martin Luther King Human Rights Advocate Award.
Kristie has a special interest in mental health issues and the biases that affect people with mental illness or addiction. She brings her knowledge of the health care system having worked at Yale New Haven Hospital for 13 years as a Corporate Trainer and a Cultural Diversity Specialist. She recognizes the importance of advocating for financial resources to enhance the service system and has testified before the legislature on behalf of the people in the mental health service system.
Kristie’s educational background is also tied to her professional career. She has an Associates degree in Communications from Endicott College and a Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University. She is currently pursuing a Masters Degree from Wesleyan University.
Kathleen Flaherty, Esq –
Kathy Flaherty is the vice-chair of Keep the Promise Coalition as well as the current Executive Director of Connecticut Legal Rights Project Inc. CLRP is a statewide non-profit agency which provides legal services to low income individuals with mental health conditions on matters related to their treatment, recovery, and civil rights. Prior to this position at CLRP, Kathy was a staff attorney at Statewide Legal Services of CT, Inc. for a total of 15 years, a staff attorney at Connecticut Legal Services for two, and Associate Executive Director of CLRP. Kathy has been involved in mental health advocacy since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder her first year of law school. Kathy is a 1994 graduate of Harvard Law School and a 1988 graduate of Wellesley College.