The Peer Wellness program, a service component of Pathways to Housing, New York (PTH-NY), is a Services in Supportive Housing (SSH) grantee (SM59196) funded by SAMHSA’s Community Mental Health Services (CMHS) program. The agency received the grant in September 2009.
The PTH-NY project provides an array of wellness services to participants, while offering their services to other agencies in New York City. However, their Peer Wellness program’s exclusive reliance on peers is what makes this program unique. Their peer-run model emphasizes empowerment, social inclusion, and true collaboration.
The PTH-NY project provides a wide range of peer-delivered services, including: a peer-led recovery center and service delivery model that embeds peer specialists with clinical teams, a peer coaching model that is strengths based and emphasizes collaboration, and a peer-involved research component that supports peers interested in delivering presentations at local and national conferences. On any given day, the project offers participants assistance with an array of services, such as housing retention, finding employment, pursuing their education, securing entitlements, making social connections, criminal justice issues, reuniting with children and families, living healthier lifestyles, becoming financially informed, and dealing with trauma.
Pictured (L-R): Dorian Hundley-Peer Education Specialist, Anthony Palmer-Peer Wellness Specialist, Linda Parrish- Sr. Peer Wellness Specialist, Brittany Freese LMSW-Project Supervisor, Neil Harbus LCSW,CPRP-Project Manager, Marc Tyler-Sr. Job Developer, Jessica Vaz BA (VISTA Intern)- Assistant Job Developer, Anne Tallegrand- Peer Intern.
Not pictured: Carmen Febres: Peer Wellness Specialist, Michael Riccio-Peer Wellness Specialist, Zachery Jackson-Peer Wellness Specialist, Cecelia White-Hoskins- Peer Employment Specialist, Gerald Washington-Peer Wellness Specialist, Gloria Goodson-Peer Employment Specialist, and Viola Smith-Peer Wellness Specialist.
The Peer Warm Line, where peers are able to provide extra support via telephone in the evening and on weekends, has been ongoing since the beginning of the program. The project is staffed by a program manager, a program supervisor, and certified peer specialists. The peer staff involved in the program have lived experience with homelessness, psychiatric disability, substance use, and time spent in mental health and criminal justice institutions. Additionally, the project recently added an LGBTQ support group and the “Mind Your Health" peer coaching initiative to assist individuals in attending to their physical health needs. These programs are possible due to a partnership with the Howie T. Harp Peer Training Center, where all program staff become certified peer specialists after completing six months of classroom training, plus an additional three months of a field internship. Peer staff are versed in recovery and wellness principles and have been trained in Motivational Interviewing, the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) planning, and using a problem-solving method.
In addition to the Howie T. Harp Peer Training Center, other partnerships include the Center for Practice Innovation and the Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University, the Harlem United Agency in New York City, the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Department at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey (Rutgers), and Touro College.
A variety of evidence-based practices (EBPs) and/or promising practices used in the PTH-NY program include: the Housing First model originally developed by Pathways to Housing, the Supported Employment—IPS model, IDDT, the IMR derived Wellness Self-Management tool, WRAP, the Assertive Community Treatment Model (ACT), supported education, the Harm Reduction model, Motivational Interviewing and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, trauma-informed activities, "Mind Your Health" peer coaching curricula, and the University of Colorado’s Smoking Cessation curriculum.
The project attributes its effectiveness to the value they place on input from staff and participants in shaping the program. This input has led to the monthly town hall meeting where anyone can raise issues and present ideas. This forum allows for input, creativity, and empowerment for all who are involved. An example of the impact of the program is their TRAC data that has shown positive outcomes for participants who are “Attending School Regularly” and/or those who are “Currently Employed,” increasing to 72.5%, with 38% showing positive outcomes at follow-up; “Social Connectedness” improved for 42.9% of consumers, resulting in 72% having positive outcomes at follow-up; “Functioning in Everyday Life” also improved for 44.3% of consumers, with over 70% having positive outcomes; over 80% of consumers have shown positive outcomes for “No Serious Psychological Distress,” “No Binge Drinking,” “Retained in the Community,” “Stable Housing,” and “No Involvement with the Criminal Justice System.”
The essence of the Peer Wellness program is perhaps captured best in this participant’s quotation: “They helped me bridge the gap between the person I was and the person I was becoming.”
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