Consumers have to recover. They and their ‘families’ are the people who have to navigate the journey of recovery which is a deeply personal and nuanced process that can be significantly enhanced by the knowledge and experience of their peers. Peer Support is not Case Management. If circumstances warrant peers may provide a case management service. Peers play significant roles in helping consumers recover: accessing emergency services, transitioning successfully from the hospital to living in community, embracing recovery through the use of mental health recovery models developed and facilitated for and by their peers. Peer Support is important throughout the stages of recovery and the continuum of care and should be integrated with treatment, serving to help consumers overcome barriers to successfully using treatment and services, and engaging in recovery. Peers work hand-in- hand with police, emergency services, intensive treatment teams, med-somatic and clinical providers, rehabilitation services, and housing and benefit providers. They work in settings including Recovery Centers, ERs, hospitals, jails, school systems, employers, neighborhoods and communities. We facilitate the transition from everything being about ‘my illness and me’ to me thriving in the context of family and community.
Practically we increase housing stability and improve the capacity of consumers to achieve meaningful lives despite the continued presence of their illness. We help them navigate the mental health system protecting their right to maintain the fine balance between keeping the symptoms that enhance their recovery, their creativity and productiveness, and managing their illness so that it does not interfere with their capacity to achieve.
We are often times the only family a consumer has, and the eyes and ears of the system during the time the consumer is not in treatment. We live with these illnesses. We bring important knowledge and observations in an integrated approach of helping consumers recover.
The long term community impact of having peer support available is that consumers have housing stability, are increasingly able to be more self-sufficient and live more interdependently in community, are healthier while accessing healthcare outside of emergency rooms, have greater success in accessing integrated treatment for mental illness and substance abuse, increase the likelihood of recovery by becoming part of a group and attending recovery meetings, identifying with people who have more recovery than themselves and who they can go to for advice and support throughout their journey of recovery. They have access to services and supports that meet the client where the client is at in whatever stage of change they are.
Research clearly shows that when consumers have access to treatment and recovery services they do better than when they only receive treatment.
In the end, the community is safer, saves money and consumers are giving back to their community.