The Office of Consumer Advocates, Inc. (OCA, Inc.) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, non-profit organization whose administrative office is located at 121 East Antietam Street in Hagerstown, MD 21740. The OCA program has been in operation since 1993 and serves to help consumers understand the mental health system by providing service navigation and advocacy. All OCA program staff by virtue of their own lived experiences provide peer support services, and are/or working to attain the Certified Peer Recovery Specialists credential.
The organization operates in three counties in western Maryland-- Washington, Allegany, and Garrett, all of which are generally considered to be rural counties. All services provided through OCA are free of charge. Services are offered via three Wellness and Recovery Centers (WRC): Soul Haven (SH) located in Washington County; Hope Station (HS) located in Allegany County, and Mountain Haven (MH) located in Garrett County and several other grant funded programs designed to meet the needs of the community.
• The peer support and the other advocacy grants provide services in Hagerstown, Garrett, Allegany County to help individuals to navigate the disability income benefits process, link with needed services i.e. transportation, and treatment, as well as address advocacy issues, and other social difficulties. Peer Support provides 1:1 support with these issues and many others. In addition, the Program Manager of OCA, consults with staff throughout OCA regarding housing, support, and other assistance. An updated listing of all service grants is available by contacting OCA’s administrative office.
WELLNESS AND RECOVERY CENTERS (WRC)
DAYS AND HOURS OF OPERATION: MONDAY-FRIDAY 10 A.M. TO 4 P.M.
• Soul Haven, located in Washington County, Hagerstown MD is designed to help people with mental health and substance use challenges to improve their health and well-being while achieving their goals. Soul Haven provides support and educational groups, meals, 1:1 support and other services to approximately 40-50 people/day. Many of the individuals who attend Soul Haven are homeless.
Beginning in 2012, OCA partnered with the Washington County Health Department to make Soul Haven a behavioral health program, integrating substance use services more fully into the program. These services are provided by recovery coaches, and peers with lived experiences. In addition, as part of Soul Haven, OCA provides limited transportation services within a ten mile radius of the center to consumers of Soul Haven and/or participants in other OCA programs to attend Soul Haven and other OCA and community appointments when available.
• HOPE Station, located in Allegany County, Cumberland MD, is geographically smaller than Hagerstown, where the attendance averages between 10-20 people/day. The same types of groups/classes are offered depending on the annual needs assessment and satisfaction survey.
• Mountain Haven, in Garrett County, Oakland MD. Garrett is our most rural and least populated area that attracts a number of tourists because of the existence of Deep Creek Lake. The demographics are a bit skewed as many people have vacation homes in Garrett which distorts the County overall poverty level. Mountain Haven is analogous to Soul Haven and HOPE Station and provides similar mental health services and assistance with entitlement benefits.
• Food pantry: OCA also operates a food pantry supplied to a large extent by commodity foods through the Maryland Food Bank. This program serves individuals and families throughout Washington County and Allegany County between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. by appointment only. A Maryland Food Bank Card is not required to access services.
OCA is also active on many levels in a variety of community efforts. In Washington County, OCA participates in the Washington County Homeless Coalition, the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Committee, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration Council, the Co-occurring Integrated Services Committee, and the Consortium of Food Pantries in Washington County. In Allegany and Garrett, we are members of the Mental Health Advisory Councils and, in Allegany, the Mental Health Consumer Advisory Council and Homeless Coalition.
OCA staff is comprised of residents of each county in which services are provided each with lived experience working both part-time and full-time schedules.