The sun was bright, the air, breezy, as the peers began to trickle into the Prince George Hotel. This would be the RAC (Regional Advisory Committee) that set the stage for the greatest relationship, the strongest bond, between clinical and peer professionals since Celia Brown first began holding these meetings in Manhattan’s premier mental health housing and supported apartment conferences.
RAC meetings bring peers, clinicians, and advocates into the same room. These are run by the Office of Mental Health (OMH) . NYC RAC meetings, with the exception of Staten Island, which is really a sub-borough, are run by Celia. At this particular RAC meeting, there would be a presentation about vulnerable people from representatives from the Justice Center. As far as this writer is concerned, justice was delivered in the form of budding love, in the wake of system wide despair and angst.
At approximately 10 am, this meeting would be scheduled to begin. Celia Brown’s meetings are notorious for running late, and this meeting would be no different. Two people were on time that day, Mr. Max E. Guttman, LSCW and Malissa Vasquez, Peer. The marched into the Prince George supported housing building with a purpose. While that purpose was not to find love, they would find it there.
At approximately 10:30 am, Celia still had not arrived for her own meeting. Max and Malissa were in the meeting room, surmising where Celia could possibly be, with another peer, demanding Max purchase her a coffee from across the street at the small bakery. Mr. Guttman agreed, stating: “if this meeting isn’t starting anytime soon I should probably have a cigarette and coffee sounds nice”. Malissa looked up, catching the gaze of Mr. Guttman for a brief second. This second would make its way into the annals of RAC meeting romance, and brief pick up opportunities, for NYC disabled professionals in Mental Health.
Mr. Guttman held the elevator door open for Ms. Vasquez, knowing she would follow him down to the bakery. They smoked a cigarette together, talking about self-published memoirs, gesturing towards a lifetime ahead of just that: smoke and shameless self-promotion.
When the meeting finally began. Notes were passed between Malissa and Max. Each now vested in each other’s thoughts, developing feelings, and the road ahead. When lunch finally came, Mr. Guttman was already perched by the buffet table.
“There aren’t enough drinks for everyone, so we need to share…” Celia told everyone. These meetings were also notorious for botched drink orders, and an overabundance of cake, for Celia’s poison was sugar and could care less if there wasn’t enough bottled water for her own people to take their afternoon meds.
After lunch, Mr. Guttman would walk out with Ms. Vasquez on his arm remarking to Celia:
“Thanks for lunch!”
leaving the meeting halfway through with a full stomach, and in a new relationship.