Even before she came to NOSW, Barb Harvey was an advocate—for women, rural people, and those who struggled with mental health and addiction. She lobbied in Frankfort, convincing legislators to fund peer support for people with addiction.
“I advocate a lot for rural Kentucky because we get the least. … I still go to the capital a lot and advocate for better treatment, better services, transportation. … I fight for people to get that so they don’t have to struggle as hard,” she says.
But even as she was helping others, Barb needed to do more for herself. She applied a few times to NOSW. Once she dropped out of the application process to allow a coworker to apply instead.
When she finally made it to the residential session in 2018, “I came because I needed support. I needed a buildup. My self-esteem was really low.”
As an introvert, she found it hard to be around the other women at first. But the support, the self-esteem classes, the writing and art classes helped her to open up. She had always enjoyed writing and art. “To be a writer I thought it had to be more elaborate. … You can still do short stories or whatever and it be OK.” NOSW founder Jane Stephenson even featured Barb’s story in one of her books.
It was also difficult to leave her job for two weeks. “How do I rob Peter to pay Paul while I’m doing these classes?” But ultimately, going through the program helped Barb find a better job in peer support through a connection with another graduate.
And, she says, “I met the family that I’ve always wanted.” Barb stays connected to her new family, helping out around the NOSW offices and serving as a house sister and art teacher during sessions. She says she’s always inspired to see how much the women grow and change in two weeks. “I like helping them build up their self-esteem.”
Barb received the 2023 Molly Clouse Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in peer support. She was one of the first Peer Support Specialists in Kentucky.