In July 2022, six current and past residents (along with Guest House staff) began a 72-hour training to become certified in Peer Recovery Support to perform the function of Peer Support Specialist within the Guest House team.
A peer support specialist is defined by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) as “someone with the lived experience of recovery from a mental health condition, substance use disorder, or both. They provide support to others experiencing similar challenges. They provide non-clinical, strengths-based support and are “experientially credentialed” by their own recovery journey (Davidson, et al., 1999).
An unfortunate result of the COVID-19 pandemic is its impact on clients’ mental health and substance use recovery efforts. According to the National Institute on Drug Use “physical distancing, quarantine, and other public health measures have disrupted recovery as social support is crucial since isolation is an extreme risk factor for continued substance use.” The Guest House staff are witnessing this firsthand. The pandemic has severely limited clients’ access to substance use and mental health treatment, as key providers of these services have eliminated all in-person treatment services, slowing client progress in those critical areas. In fact, the Alexandria Community Service Board, the main source of mental health and substance use services for Guest House clients, has ceased all in-person services, including their detox and inpatient treatment, and has only limited availability to online programs.
Guest House staff have scrambled to find other options for clients, but many mental health and substance use agencies have waitlists due to increased demand for their services, especially agencies that serve lower-resourced communities.
In response, Guest House has been exploring ways to expand access to therapeutic services (individual and group-based supports) onsite and the addition of a peer support specialist role to the staffing team. Guest House’s new initiative, the Peer Support Training program, was introduced in direct response to client feedback.
The integration of a Peer Support Specialist within a clients’ treatment and support teams will provide an additional layer of support to clients who struggle to maintain sobriety or live with a mental health diagnosis, a program need that clients have identified. The Peer Support Specialist will work alongside case managers and assist clients in the creation of and adherence to a comprehensive recovery plan focused on critical recovery support domains (e.g., housing, employment, education, health, family/community etc.). The specialist will provide person-centered support through the utilization of community resources, motivational interviewing, positive reinforcement, and strengths-based recovery coaching. As a member of the client’s support team, they will track engagement and discuss concerns with the case management team.
We are thrilled to continue to build more mental health services and career support for our residents!