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Peer Provider Research Study

Louise Byrne, PhD, recently visited Crestwood Behavioral Health as part of a peer provider research study she is working on in the United States. Louise who has lived experience, is from Australia and based at Yale University. She is conducting research as part of a Fulbright Scholarship, which emphasizes exchange of knowledge and learning about local culture, that includes traveling to many different states and learning about the types of services provided by different organizations.

The purpose of her research study is to gain information about how to support the peer workforce more effectively within organizations, particularly those organizations with a multi-disciplinary workforce. The organizations for the study were selected by first bringing together an advisory group of experts from across the United States. This group was asked to nominate five organizations with a multi-disciplinary workforce, including peers, that “demonstrated commitment to the effective employment of peer workers.” Crestwood, as one of the leaders in peer provider services, was one of the organizations that was chosen to be part of the study. At each organization’s site visits, Louise spoke with people in management roles, traditional mental health roles/clinicians and peers. The range of organizational types was deliberately broad, including County Behavioral Health Departments, managed care, private and not-for-profit. The sites were located throughout the United States and served different types of communities from metropolitan to rural.

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Louise Byrne, PhD, visiting the Crestwood Sacramento Home Office as part of her Peer Provider Research Study (R to L) Patty Blum, Louise Byrne, Mertice “Gitane” Williams, George Lytal.

During her visit to Crestwood, Louise visited the Crestwood Sacramento Home Office and was invited to tour our Crestwood Recovery and Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo.

She said, “I was provided with a warm and colorful welcome from the Administrator, Minda Bunggay, whose enthusiasm was absolutely infectious! I found that Minda’s sincere commitment to the wellbeing of people staying at Vallejo was evident and reflected in the passion of staff. I was fortunate enough to be guided in my tour by a resident and member of the Dreamcatchers Empowerment Network program, who shared his excitement for what he saw as a wonderful service and, with Dreamcatchers, a wonderful opportunity to gain skills and confidence. Throughout the campus the principles and components of recovery are featured on the walls of the hallways, as are the rights of people accessing mental health services. Beautiful gardens provide a sanctuary that truly felt healing, and the relaxation rooms were fantastic. I could have spent much longer there. While I was there I was told about the impressive schedule of events and got to participate in a drum workshop. As a person with lived experience, Crestwood Vallejo felt like a genuinely warm and nurturing environment.” Louise’s observations about the research study so far are that fairly similar conditions exist in the United States and Australia, where peer work is still struggling to be seen as a necessary part of the wider mental health workforce. She observed, “We still have a long way to go to gain mainstream acceptance, but there were some encouraging pockets where organizations have made a very strong philosophical and financial commitment to the development of peer work and the outcomes for organizations, service users and colleagues in traditional roles were outstanding and very exciting.”

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Louise Byrne with Crestwood Recovery and Rehabilitation Center, Vallejo’s staff during her visit to the campus.

Employment of peers has a long history at Crestwood, but expansion from one or two roles to a more robust workforce has become very prominent in the company. This is really encouraging as the data also shows that a few peers in isolation are much less likely to be successful in their roles, whereas a more significant investment provides opportunity for networking/mutual support between peers, for the roles not to be too stretched and for the value of the role to become more apparent within both the workplace and wider community,” observed Louise.

For more information on Louise Byrne’s research study, please visit Research Gate at www.researchgate.net/profile/Louise_Byrne2.

Contributed by: Louise Byrne, PhD, RMIT University,

Fulbright fellow/Vice-Chancellors Research Fellow