CBHI Blog

Crestwood Behavioral Health

The Importance of Peer Providers in the Workforce

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There was a time when a person receiving behavioral health services was simply looked on as a client. They were identified as the targeted person or the recipient of services. They generally looked to specialists to understand and treat their symptoms, their discomfort or disease. They were dependent on the system to take care of them. There was no reciprocity, no mutuality and no equality. Often there was no actual relationship, no trust, no compassion and sadly, there was no hope.

There was a time when a person receiving behavioral health services was simply looked on as a client. They were identified as the targeted person or the recipient of services. They generally looked to specialists to understand and treat their symptoms, their discomfort or disease. They were dependent on the system to take care of them. There was no reciprocity, no mutuality and no equality. Often there was no actual relationship, no trust, no compassion and sadly, there was no hope.

But today the good news is this view in behavioral health services is changing for the better. And at Crestwood, you can see the changes we have embraced in the behavioral health services we provide that are filled with hope, compassion, integrity and love. One important way we do this is to have services at Crestwood be directed by peer providers, who are people who have been clients or who choose to self-identify as a person with lived experience. Crestwood actively recruits staff with this type of lived experience and this perspective, and we refer to it as the peer experience. We also pride ourselves in employing peer providers at all levels of our organization, including at our corporate executive level, all leadership levels, as well as in the direct care areas of our organization.

The Human Resources practice of recruiting, hiring and employing people with lived experience is based on the mounting research that has led peer-provided services to be identified as an Evidence-Based Practice and one of the highest factors to eliminating coercive treatment. At Crestwood, we have found that by having peers in all levels of employment, the use of restraint and seclusion has dropped by more than 92% in the past 8 years.

Peers, whether an RN with lived experience, a Vice President who has family member dealing with mental health issues or a bookkeeper who has been hospitalized for depression, all bring the gift of empathy and understanding to our clients that other staff may not be able to provide. Our programs have become richer and more effective and most importantly, there is hope, meaningful engagement, empowerment and strong, well-defined career paths with opportunities for growth reaching to the highest levels of Crestwood leadership. This practice is the true essence of integration and meaningful roles.

Peer Providers enrich our programs for our clients on a daily basis that benefit everyone and provide a supportive and understanding resource that only they can offer. When our clients know that a staff member, who is there to help and support them, has also been through similar issues in their life, they know they are not alone and that they too can succeed in their recovery.

Contributed by:

Patricia Blum, PhD Executive Vice President

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