Rosie Anderson-Harper — Helping afflicted build better quality of life

Rosie Anderson with the Missouri Department of Mental Health

Rosie Anderson with the Missouri Department of Mental Health Photo by Julie Smith.

As the director of recovery services at the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Rosie Anderson-Harper focuses on helping individuals with mental health and addiction issues recover a better quality of life.

“It’s what all of us want … a healthy body, a stable place to live, a purpose — which may be a job or school — and good relationships,” Harper said. “My job is to make sure all our services are recovery-oriented.”

Recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential, she said.

Harper said over the last few decades, the push has been from institutionalized to community care. During that time, the goal was all about “stabilization,” Harper said.

“But we’re moving beyond the idea of just stabilization to recovery,” she said.

She believes it’s possible.

She noted the public often hears about the struggles people with mental health and addiction face. They hear less often about the success stories.

She said, every day, people with mental illness or addiction are living healthy, normal lives because they’ve learned new coping skills and are taking the right medications.

One strategy the department is trying to build is “peer support services,” which allow individuals who have traveled the road to recovery coach and teach others who are still working toward that goal.

“They lose hope,” Harper said. “They might say, ‘It’s too hard,’ or ‘I’m too sick.’ But individuals helping others can offer hope. They can say, ‘I have been where you are, and you can overcome this.’”

Harper said the department has established training programs for peers who want to participate, and it has created a method for people to bill for those services.

In her job, Harper also oversees programs that help people find proper housing, access medical care and support them in employment.

“Work is a big part of recovery,” she said. “The minute a person says, ‘I am interested in working’ they are more likely to get up every morning and have those healthy relationships.”

Harper, who has a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of Missouri, has worked for the state for 20 years.

“I am very interested in helping people,” she said. “I just know that people can get better with the right support. Now, I get to set the policies that do make a difference and are really beneficial to the people we serve.”

Harper is married to John Harper; the couple has two college-aged children.

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