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Crestwood Behavioral Health


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Empowering Peer Support

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Last November, Humboldt County Department of Human and Health Services, through a grant from California Office of Statewide Health, Planning and Development (OSHPD) hosted a 10-day Peer Support Specialist Certification training that was led by Recovery Innovations (RI) to train 10 mental health staff and volunteers in the Eureka area. A lucky member of our Crestwood Eureka campus, Rebecca, a Peer Support Specialist through Dreamcatchers Empowerment Network, was invited to attend. This training is designed to enhance the peer support skills of participants, while empowering them to be more self-directed and competent in providing recovery and resilience services to clients.

“The Peer Support Specialist Certification training turned out to be one of the most interesting classes I have ever taken. I was excited to be included in the two-week course, which opened new doors for me to learn how I could partner and relate to people seeking services,” said Rebecca.

It has been a year since Rebecca began working as a Peer Support Specialist at Crestwood Eureka, and she is grateful for the conceptual framework and the set of skills which this training gives to her job. “I felt empowered to learn these things in the company of other peer support and mental health workers, who have been working to combat stigma and provide support within the county mental health system,” said Rebecca. “I have learned to better understand my role in the comprehensive health facility that I work in. I have gained valuable resources to guide me, to set my own goals, and to provide meaningful direction for my work.

Peer Support in Eureka

Rebecca (left) and Kelli Jack, Director of Hope Center in Eureka (right), proudly displaying their certificates from the Peer Support Specialist Certification Training.

This Peer Support Specialist Certification training provided a wealth of a wealth of information and skills to participants. Rebecca reported that the train- ing was relevant not only to her, but to anyone doing mental health work. She said, “The concept of helping people find their own strengths to make decisions leading to recovery is a powerful idea and is useful at any level of the mental health community.”

Contributed by:
Rebecca, Peer Support Specialist, Dreamcatchers Empowerment Network, Crestwood Eureka Campus


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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