As crisis services expand and the well-intentioned ideas around replacing “cops” with “care” gain momentum, it is important to analyze the carceral structures within mental health systems. Both family advocacy and more progressive group discussions often revert to models of caring for diagnosed (“mentally ill”) people and people who use drugs/alcohol with forced treatments in confined settings. This workshop will begin by deconstructing reformist ideas that uphold coercive interventions. Then, we will explore abolitionist reforms that support peers in maintaining the safety and health of our communities that preserve dignity and autonomy through experiences with crisis.

Learning Outcomes:

Participants in this session will be able to…

  • Identify carceral logics embedded in mental health and substance use services
  • Define abolition in the context of mental health and substance use services
  • Discuss three strategies for decarcerating care in peer support work


Jess Stohlmann-Rainey (she/her) loves to talk about suicide, peer support, and liberation. She is a mad care worker located in so-called Denver (unceded ancestral lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Sioux) people). She is currently an instructor in the University of Denver Graduate School of Professional Psychology and the Director of Program Development at Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners (who provides the statewide crisis and peer lines, Colorado Lifeline, and other telephonic and online emotional support services). Jess has focused her career on creating pathways to intersectional, justice-based, emotional support for marginalized communities, and believes mutual aid, disability justice, abolition, and other liberation ideologies are integral to solve the problems that lead to suicide.

Jess centers her lived expertise as a mad woman, voice-hearer, and suicide attempt survivor in her work. Jess and her work has been featured in USA Today, Mad in America,  Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers,  Postvention in Action: The International Handbook of Suicide Bereavement, Crisis, Death Studies, and The Suicide Prevention Resource Center. She collaborates on a podcast called Suicide ‘n’ Stuff with Dese’Rae Stage from Live Through This. She was the 2018-2021 Lived Experience Commissioner on Colorado’s Suicide Prevention Commission, and was the winner of the 2019 American Association of Suicidology Transforming Lived Experience Award, and the 2019 Cookie Gant and Bill Compton LGBTQIA Leadership Award for Excellence in Promoting Diversity and Inclusion Award.