Peer support in the community support programs

I am part of the new wave of peer support being offered in the community mental health programming in Milwaukee County. The county contracts with agencies who provide case management for clients to help them lead better more productive lives. the case managers provide advocacy, assistance in securing resources such as housing, food stamps, medications and help for their consumers. often numerous  physical problems. They meet with people sometimes on a daily basis depending on the severity of the difficulties and challenges facing consumers. Despite these efforts, we still find that a lot of people cycle in and out of crisis, showing up at various hospitals. Would it surprise anyone to learn that the individuals seeking help the most often are also the least likely to accept it? They may leave shortly after undergoing an extensive intake process The question of whether programs are resistant to consumers or consumers are  resistant to consumers seems like a kind of chicken and egg problem to which the only logical answer is yes and so what.

A more useful question might be, how well does this system promote recovery? And  how do we measure it? This is the model that we are using and which I have joined. As a peer specialist in housing I had very little clear  idea  of how case management operated. At the same time, the case managers had to be educated about our function. Now with this effort to integrate us into case management, it may become clearer how we are supposed to operate as a team.

It will be good to learn how Milwaukee County monitors our progress. I am wondering who else has been hired and at what agencies? In addition, what has been the experience of peer specialists working in community support programs across the country. I am interested in learning more about what is happening. Maybe some local oddball will respond to me.

After 15 months, it is becoming clearer what Milwaukee has decided that it wants peer support to become. One of our major tasks will be to help roll out Wellness Recovery Action Plans. Currently there are only 2 certified WRAP facilitators in the County. Years ago I did some WRAP training, but most of the people with whom I completed those WRAPs became peer specialists. It did not catch on throughout the mental health system. At the same time there were a few people who took the WRAP and ran with it. They went through the Mary Ellen Copeland Center which was expensive. Now we are supposed to be offering WRAP at the mental health complex and in a community linkage and support program. The next step will be expanding WRAP through the community support programs like mine. Consumers can become more anxious as they attempt to make changes in their lives, which results in hospitalization. They worry about losing their benefits, they fear that they are disappointing us and they become so afraid of mania that deep depression seems more comfortable.

As the mental health complex continues to downsize, the question remains, will these community supports be enough to hold up the hope for people? One idea of an innovative approach is to reconsider the way that we respond when someone reports hearing voices. Yesterday I watched a remarkable TED talk by Eleanor Longden “Why I Thank the Voices in My Head.” The talk has been viewed more than 500,000 times. I posted a link to it in a blog entry and I encouraged a co-worker to view yesterday. The next question we ought to be asking is, do you hear what I hear? There is a growing number of people in the hearing voices network and it would be exciting and challenging to create such a network in Milwaukee utilizing peer support specialists.

Another thing to consider is that not everyone can do everything. Some may be most comfortable doing WRAP plans. Fine, do WRAP. Some people prefer Emotional cpr, which I was certified in last year. I would not be appropriate for hearing voices because I don’t share that experience. Perhaps someone who does hear voices will view Eleanor Longden’s talk and be inspired.



2 thoughts on “Peer support in the community support programs

  1. Hi Kenyatta, I thought the article re: the history of peer support going back to 18th century France was pretty cool. I’ve tweeted about it an put a link to the article on my page. Thanks so very much for posting this!


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