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Poetry for Personal Power: National expansion

by Corinna West

Poetry for Personal Power is a process innovation. We train artists and advocates to reduce hospitalizations, provide prevention info, and link people to paid AND natural peer supports.
Kansas City, KS United States Mental Health Patient Power Tools! Art in Healthcare Takeda challenge

All Team Company Patients Physicians Hospital Partners Mission Innovation Details Supporters Comments Updates

About our project

The problem we solve:

We need more natural community peer supports. What are these? These are the boxing clubs, gardening clubs, or mentoring groups in every small town and city that already sustain people. They beat traditional mental health care approaches whenever they are directly compared or added to treatment. Innovative ways to provide lay interventions is the #1 item in SAMHSA's 2007 Workforce Development Action plan.

Natural peer supports are more likely to be adopted. Churches and boxing clubs already have workers, whereas mental health centers have relatively low uptake of peer support roles. It is a better work environment: 86% of patient advocates who work in a peer run organizations like ours are happy compared to 54% in mental health centers (Psychiatric Services 64:181–184, 2013). In person natural peer supports are better than online approaches to solve the housing, employment, and social issues that are the real barriers to recovery (NASMHPD 2002). In therapy, 85% of the benefit comes from the trusting relationship built (Scott Miller, KU). Poetry for Personal Power is a training method to teach artists and advocates to teach their community how to build trusting relationships. Our primary outcome measure is hospital avoidance.

About our solution:

Poetry for Personal Power is a business model that trains artists and advocates to connect people to natural peer supports. Our customers are HMOs, ACOs, or health homes who want the 70% reduction in hospitalizations provided by peer supporters (Optum, BRSS-TACS). This is a 455% return on investment according to program cost estimates. Our peer specialists help people get connected with natural peer supports in their community, and the community organizations can use part of the health care funding to grow their services.

Poetry for Personal Power's business model is a process innovation. We combine both informal and formal peer supports. We also expand artists' and advocates' ability to deliver high value interventions and connections. Our processes are simple and repeatable across geographies and medical areas. Artists, advocates, and community programs are already doing this work, and we just provide a slight training adjustment, quality controls, and evaluation measures. We provide online access to network listings as well as specific support programs in order to leverage technology and help isolated or rural people. We can help prevent vast numbers of unneeded hospitalizations with our business system, and we are ready to expand nationwide.

Progress to date:Poetry for Personal Power overall agency outcomes for 2015-2016 include: Completion of 134 Health Care Messaging Events with 2,485 artists sharing stories about overcoming adversity, and 4,737 audience in attendance. Our average event size is 43 people. 21 community partners completing the Wellbeing Impact Assessment process Delivered 4 Lay Person Intervention Training sessions Our pre-post surveys show outcomes that are very helpful to people with “major depressive disorder.” Our overall resilience impact is an 18% positive resilience change across all demographics with the program.

About Our Team

Creator: Corinna West

Location: Kansas

Bio: Poetry for Personal Power's founder Corinna West is an Olympic Judo athlete. She has lived experience of recovery from “major depressive disorder,” and 11 other psychiatric labels. She has a Masters degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. She was a catalyst for Kansas City's lead role in the national mental health dialogue project. She was a Cohort VIII fellow of the Kansas Health foundation. She was recipient of the 2013 Judi Chamberlin award from the National Coalition on Mental Health Recovery.

Title: Program Manager

Advanced Degree(s): MS

About Team Members

Aja Owens
St. Louis Regional Coordinator, BA
Biography: Aja Owens has lead our St. LOuis youth team through 24 events this summer, created our most active regional peer support network, and led mental health advocacy efforts to coordinate better with #blacklivesmatter, youth needs, and LGBT advocacy.
Title: St. Louis Regional Coordinator
Advanced Degree(s): BA

Brian Be
Colorado Regional Coordinator,
Biography: Brian has led our Colorado expansion with intense effort related to program design. He is a star of Evita at the Denver Performing Arts Center, an Austim self-advocate, and a funny, warm, and friendly person that is really nice to talk to.
Title: Colorado Regional Coordinator

Doug Rosenbrook
Kansas City Regional Coordinator,
Biography: Doug is the coach of KC Poet Tree, Kansas City's national youth team that went to the semifinals of the Brave New Voices national slam this year. Doug has led local efforts, trained other artists, and helped design our prison outreach program.
Title: Kansas City Regional Coordinator

About Our Company

Poetry for Personal Power

Location: 1921 Nebraska Ave
Kansas City, KS 66102

Founded: 2009



Twitter: @PoetryforPower


Other link:

Other link:

Product Stage: In the Market

YTD Sales: Less than $250,000

Employees: 20-50

How We Help Patients

We increase recovery rates, we provide complete recovery transition services, and we provide access to (ex) / patient advocates. We were the only (ex)/patient-led organization ever selected as a 4 time awardee from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s Anti-Discrimination Center for our mental illness discrimination prevention programs on college campuses and in the community. In our all time program history, we have hosted 254 events, with 3427 poets participating, most of whom are young adults. We have reached 10, 920 audience members with our mental illness prevention messaging. We are currently the first-ever double recipient of SAMHSA's BRSS-TACS, or Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale grant for expandable peer support businesses.

How We Help Physicians

Doctors want to see patients recover. Primary care doctors need to prevent mental illness. Our system of community and lay interventions can solve mental health concerns before they become “illness.” To put it simply, many mental illnesses are preventable, and we have a plan to count the savings. Helping people avoid psychiatric disability would save an average Medicaid cost of $20,000 per year per person, a total of $307 million dollars annually in the KC Metro area alone. Medicalization of normal emotions costs the US over $35 billion annually (Social Science and Medicine, 2010: 70, 1943). De-medicalizing help-seeking for mental health concerns addresses the two largest causes of stigma (J Psychiatry Neurosci 2015;40(3) and the three biggest barriers to help seeking (Clement et al, Psychological Sciences, 2014). Our program prevents direct costs of traditional interventions, plus indirect costs of psychiatric disability like lost employment, productivity, and victim loss.

How We Help Hospitals

Hospitals need sustainable revenue streams. Hospitals are also penalized for re-admissions. We can solve both issues. Poetry for Personal Power has initial start up funds from SAMHSA, two health care foundations and the state of Kansas. Our statewide network in Kansas and Missouri has letters of support from churches, mental health providers, researchers, and a wide range of partnering advocacy organizations. Our program is sustainable because we are building entrepreneurial approaches in from the beginning. Our peer supporter placement service matches highly resilient people with the companies who need them. We are working on the capacity to bill Medicaid and insurance companies for peer support. We are also teaching our community partners to bring in revenue from mental illness prevention. This creates a powerful community demand for more mental illness prevention funding. We are working creatively on both the supply side and the demand side to change the economics of the prevention and peer support industries.

How We Help Partners

The idea is that all nonprofits already do some work that will solve or prevent mental illness. But most organizations have been confused by medical language and disease views of mental illness. -centric approaches to mental health. Poetry for Personal Power simplifies this with a short quiz that shows the 45 ways to promote wellbeing. Most non-profits already do 12-15 of these well-being or resilience building activities. Poetry for Personal Power teaches organizations to increase their wellbeing impact. This way they know what to do and how to support people who come to them with mental health needs. We also teach host organizations how to document wellbeing related outcomes to increase their ability to get future health care funding. We test the effectiveness of this approach by surveying our partner agencies for their knowledge of well-being before and after our work with them. If we get a higher level matching grant, we will be able to test the well-being of program participants and see how much that actually increases.

Challenge Mission

How we will improve Depression Care

Poetry for Personal Power increases quality by integrating the best and most current research solving root causes of mental health concerns. We address disclosure concerns, negative social judgments, and job discrimination, the three largest barriers to help-seeking (Psych. Med. 45:11-27, 2014). We are building a culture of health and addressing neighborhood health disparities with our coalition of trusted community nonprofits. Our program's “Mental Health is Simple” capacity building puts into action the wellbeing research in the 2013 UK Creating Resilient Communities report. We integrate suicide prevention recommendations from the seminal 2014 “The Way Forward” report. Lay person interventions have a proven ability to reduce prevalence of suicidal behavior, psychological morbidity, and disability days. (British Journal of Psychiatry, 2011: 9:459-66). We are “(ex) / patient- centered” with (ex) / patients leading many of our efforts.

How we will make the lives of those who suffer from depression better

There are poets, recovery movement advocates, wellness organizations, and funders in every small town and city. The information needed to bring them together is easily shared. Information moves quicker than medicine. Poetry for Personal Power is an intentionally designed social change strategy to popularize effective prevention science. We are making great momentum on a stuck issue in Kansas and Missouri. We can prevent mental illness, provide complete recovery transition services, and build a new paradigm of mental health care. Our methods can be easily transferred to other locations by connecting the key players in those cities with the modular advocacy and artist approaches we are creating. Also, by creating a livable wage for (ex) / patient advocates, we can help solve some of the stuck issues on cancer, diabetes, or other “medical' fields.

Innovation Details

Intellectual Property Summary

We are social entrepreneurs and want our ideas to be shared. Also, the value of a business idea is mainly in the execution.

Patent Link

Clinical Information

Poetry for Personal Power is not one specific innovation, but a business system that compiles many past and proven patient led mental health innovations. Peer support has shown evidence-based outcomes for mental health and mental illness via the following data. Enrollees in the Optum Wisconsin PeerLink program showed a significant 71% decrease in the average number of acute inpatient days per month. Enrollees in the Optum Tennessee PeerLink program showed a significant 90% decrease in the average number of acute inpatient days per month. Enrollees in the Optum Texas PeerLink program showed a significant 70% decrease in the average number of acute inpatient days per month. Optum Pierce realized that among 125 individuals served, there was a 79.2% reduction in hospital admissions from one year to the next, with an indicated $550,215 in savings. NYAPRS data indicated that 71% of those individuals who were served by the Peer Bridgers program were able to stay out of the hospital in 2009. Recovery Innovations realized a 56% reduction in hospital admissions rates.

Poetry for Personal Power has done extensive review of the evidence behind peer support, also reviewing the large amount of research on trauma healing, peer-run programs, peer support implementation, and layperson mental health interventions, and has incorporated SAMHSA’s core principles of peer support. We work with fidelity to evidence-based program models, including ex-patient Dr. Jean Campbell’s COSP-FACIT research (Consumer-Operated Support Programs-Fidelity Assessment Common Ingredients Tool). This tool has been used in Missouri for more than 12 years and is recognized by SAMHSA as an evidence-based practice.

Regulatory Status

NA - this is human experience language and requires no FDA approval. Also, we do not require any IRB at this stage. 

How we will use the funds raised

This funding will help us expand to schools, jails, nonprofits, big cities and tiny towns across the United States and become a national model. We will take the program on tour, holding demonstration events in selected communities across the United States to recruit new partners.

Our Project objectives for the $35,000 include:

  • Completion of health care messaging events in new geographies

  • Form new networks of peer support providers in new geographic areas.

  • Provide training on the basic elements of peer support

  • Create a management structure to support a network of affiliated peer support programs


The system created by Poetry for Personal Power, of community and lay interventions, will solve mental health concerns before they become extenuated illnesses. Many mental illnesses are preventable. Helping people avoid psychiatric disability would save an average of $20,000 in Medicaid costs per year, per person (millions for each metropolitan area). This award would support further national expansion to provide peer support in a scalable way to spread community interventions for depression.

Thank You

I used to have major depressive disorder. I tried 29 psych drugs and the doctors at some point resorted to shock treatments. My mom took me out of the hospital after I lost the ability to speak from the shocks. I had to fight two years to heal up from that brain injury. I had to learn how to safely taper off medications, how to build wellness activities, how to find meaning and purpose again in my life. I had to end bad relationships and shift out of careers that didn't fit. I almost died of this stuff. I wish I had advocates and peer support from the beginning. When our program scales up, everyone will have access to a patient advocate who has recovered.



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    Robert Sember posted on 16th August, 2016

    Poetry for Personal Power occupies a unique place in the peer recovery movement. They lead with creativity, joyfulness, empathy, and direct action. I have experienced personally and witnessed how the voices that gather under the Poetry for Personal Power banner call us to friendship and hope. Poetry for Personal Power reminds us that we are the poets of our own lives. Thank you.

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    Christian Wade posted on 16th August, 2016

    Poetry for Personal Power has a great way of coping and overcoming adversity in all its forms, including mental illness and trauma. Creative outlets aid in this recovery and helps people to move on to greater things.

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    Marva Weigelt posted on 19th August, 2016

    Poetry for Personal Power understands how creativity leverages personal empowerment and how peers can support one another in healing and moving forward.

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    Be Arts Wellness posted on 20th August, 2016

    Poetry for Personal Power has made a lasting difference in my life, as has it's founder Ms Corinna West. The value of lived experience and peer support can not be stated enough. So P3 is out to state and restate and demonstrate and mentor it, over and over again. Proud to be a part of such lasting wellness !! This program deserves funded. The constituents are empowered via P3 program to Be Arts Wellnss - to be well themselves (ongoing) and to support / offer others their own wellness roads

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    Steven Wilson posted on 23rd August, 2016

    Art can be a therapy as it allows the human to express the private hell they are going through. Poetry for Personal Power has engaged a state of distress in many people and dealt with it in a positive and fulfilling way. Poetry for Personal Power is interested in curing the consumer instead of a constant stream of treatment modalities that prolong the pain. Consumers need options in treatment; and Poetry for Personal Power places the cure in the hands of the consumers and the communities that support them. Peace.

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    Timothy Crain posted on 25th August, 2016

    Art is a good way to form healing relationships in the mental health community and encourage lasting friendships and relationships for peers who need the help the most.

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    ryan magiera posted on 26th August, 2016

    Artistic expression as therapy. AND informing by advocating for healthcare coverage. Poetry for Personal Power has a great way of coping and overcoming adversity in all its forms, including mental illness and trauma. Creative outlets aid in this recovery and helps people to move on to greater things.

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    Andy Brown posted on 28th August, 2016

    P3 is bringing lived experience and advocacy to the forefront of mental health discussions and policies in Kansas. Thier work in support of KMHC and the Kansas Mental Health Advocacy Day has been inspiring.

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    Dennis Budd posted on 28th August, 2016

    Poetry for Personal Power uses art to present mental health adversity as basic human experience with a shared connection for its participants. The poetry presentations can connect to places in the lives of people that mental health treatment does not touch, invoking a vision of healing in a powerful way. and helping persons to break through the effects of adversity and trauma.

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    Matthew Diamond posted on 28th August, 2016

    P3 is doing amazing things for artists, creating jobs for them by procuring campaign funding that's relevant to our overall health and wellness as a society. What P3 is doing is important.. Worth donating too!

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    Andre Carbonell posted on 29th August, 2016

    Poetry For Personal Power is a excellent organization that really leads the way for art therapy. Its facilitators are professional and talented beyond belief and really helps deliver a cathartic relief to its participants.

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    Aja Owens posted on 31st August, 2016

    I have been a strong advocate for Poetry for Personal Power for more than three years. I have seen how this program literally change lives. Programs like this continuely needs to be funded because it gives everyday people an outlet to share their personal power as they overcome adversities they deal with day to day

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    Robin Fry posted on 1st September, 2016

    Poetry for Personal Power provides unique, innovative, out-of-the-box ways for self-advocates, family members, and entrepreneurs to spread the word about how those recovering and healing can improve their health and well-being, become successful individuals, and participate in and help empower their communities! Where so many other nonprofit organizations fall short, Poetry for Personal Power not only takes the torch but runs with it and invites others to join in! And their founder, Corinna West, shows self-advocates, entrepreneurs, and other people how building community and establishing supportive environments in various settings can be--and has been--done! During a recent conference, I experienced firsthand how those involved with Poetry for Personal Power use their various experiences, artistry, creativity, empathy, and enthusiasm to help and empower other people to live better, healthier lives, to keep the torches of encouragement and hope burning, and to help build and maintain community. Calling others to friendship, community, and hope--that's what Poetry for Personal Power is about, and more! Those involved, including founder Corinna West, lead by example and show others how they can do the same. Thank you, Corinna, and Poetry for Personal Power! Let's get this going nationwide! P.S.--Thanks, Corinna, for sharing your vision and chocolate candies with me at the RV-RC Conference, and for showing me how all of this is reality as well as possible!

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    billie todd posted on 4th September, 2016

    I have heard Corrina speak on this and other concerns in the mental movement. I absolutely agree that all alot of people are afraid of change, however a positive change is necessary. It is individuals like Corrina that pave the world with new ideas and approaches for a better tomorrow, just like Abe Lincoln, Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther King. And so many more we have changed the world in many ways. Also a this project; poetry for personal power I believe is an an amazing idea because our peers, clients, families, and self tend to forget that just like a Van Gogh we don't have to be stuck "staying in the lines" we should be true to ourselves, enjoy the beauty in life, and having resources, peer support, and so much more at the very grasp of a hand.... Yes it is very hard to pull out of sever depression, but I have learn it is possible, I learned this by utilizing groups, programs, and organizations designed for our mental health recovery. "Not lock em and throw away the key ones".......... Thank you Corrina West for all you Do.

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    KatFish Creations posted on 5th September, 2016

    This seems like the perfect opportunity to teach visual art in an expressive way, to build self esteem, express emotions, and relax by using the artistic parts of your brain. Art is my therapy and helps me cope with life in a non destructive or threatening way. It would be wonderful to expose others to visual arts in an uplifting way too.

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    Kat Dake posted on 7th September, 2016

    Corinna is extremely passionate about helping others through the mental health maze. She has been through many roadblocks in her life from being misdiagnosed or suffering from various Mental Health problems and she has worked hard to overcome the stigma along with the problem itself. She knows what it is like to deal with adversity in this area firsthand. Corinna goes out of her way to make sure people do not have to suffer in the ways that she has dealt with personally and seen others go through. I have personally been blessed by knowing her and having access to her research and seeing her positive results.

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    Corinna West posted on 29th September, 2016

    Thanks again for all your support for this project....The pitch contest did well, our team was amazing. We feel the contest and judges were a bit TOO disease model....but hey....the whole world is TOO disease model. So I guess it's time we keep plugging to fix this. Here are the pics. If you still want to donate to our organization, please feel free! You can use the donate button on our website: We're going to keep doing amazing work and looking for early adopter funders and peer support clients. We'd love to help you reduce health care costs!

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    Anna John posted on 15th May, 2019

    great project keep it up

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  • Poetry for Personal Power thanks you for your support!
    Hi friends, Thanks so much for your support of Poetry for Personal Power. We are in first place and it looks like are almost there! You can help us a few more ways, if you are interested in advancing our project. If you are a coaching / mentoring / support group leader, you can fill out our survey for community organizations. If you are in Kansas City, we are looking for board members. Also, you can join us at pitch practice in person on September 17, 2016. At 8:45am at UMKC Bloch Hall. If you are in California, Join us during the pitch on September 27 at 10am at the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency, and bring some friends. If you are anywhere else, we love you too! You can call us tonight and hear our phone based pitch practice, at 6:30 Central. Reply to for the call in information. Also, we would love for you to review our pitch slides, or send any feedback or partnership ideas you have to Great to have you on board and it looks like you joined one of the winning teams! -Signed Corinna, Chris, Aja, Adrienne, and Andre (our pitch team)

  • Thanks again for supporting Poetry for Personal Power.
    Thanks again for all your support for Poetry for Personal Power....The pitch team did well, our whole crew was amazing. We feel the contest and judges were a bit TOO disease model....but hey....the whole world is TOO disease model. So I guess it's time we keep plugging to fix this. Here are the pics. If you still want to donate to our organization, please feel free! You can use the donate button on our website: We're going to keep doing amazing work and looking for early adopter funders and peer support clients. We'd love to help you reduce health care costs!

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