DBSA shares value of the certified peer support specialist with congressional staffers

On February 27, over 25 congressional staffers learned how integrating peer support specialists into the delivery of health services can lead to better outcomes. This education took place during a congressional briefing that included opening remarks delivered by DBSA CEO, Michael Pollock, followed by a moderated panel discussion. During his remarks, Mr. Pollock shared statistics that illustrate the state of mental health care for Veterans and seniors. You can find those statistics at this link.

The panel of experts shared through real-world experiences, the value certified peer support specialists can bring in producing better health outcomes and addressing the mental health workforce shortage. Panelists shared that integrating peer support specialists can:

  • Increase engagement with physical health providers
  • Improve mental health outcomes
  • Support suicide prevention programs
  • Strengthen community engagement

While discussing her role as Peer Specialist and Recovery Services Program Manager at Edward Hines Jr VA Hospital, Dr. Megan Mayberry gave an example of how peer support specialists improve the re-engagement rate after a Veteran has missed an appointment. She shared that 31% of Veterans contracted by a peer support specialist returned to a health and wellness program offered at Hines vs only 13% from those who received a routine missed appointment call.

As Director of Behavioral Health Integration in the Los Angeles Service Area at Providence Health & Services, Dr. Karen Rentas shared that only 42% of seniors experiencing depression seek help. Yet she had observed that after working with a peer support specialist some seniors in the program at Facey Medical Clinic Mission Hills took that first step and scheduled an appointment with behavioral health services.

DBSA was honored to have two Veteran peer support specialists—Ben Bramer and Yuki Imai— serve on the panel. They not only shared how a lived experience of a mental health condition enables them to help fellow Veterans develop the confidence to manage their own overall health and wellness, but how their experiences can support Veterans who might be experiencing suicidal ideation.

DBSA engages in outreach to public policy decision-makers to strengthen the role of the certified peer support specialist. We will keep you apprised of other outreach programs in future columns. In the meantime, read the next issue of Making Mental Health Matter to access a link to listen to the congressional briefing or read the transcripts.

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Primetime network television program exemplifies DBSA values

As the leading national, peer-focused organization for individuals living with depression and bipolar disorder, DBSA envisions wellness for people living with these conditions. Our mission is to provide hope, help, support, and education to improve the lives of people who have mood disorders. While advocacy often focuses on educating the media and pop culture influencers on how their products contribute to stigma, it is just as important to acknowledge positive messages when they happen.

A recent episode of the popular TV show Stumptown is to be congratulated for highlighting the value of peer support. Based on the graphic novel series by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth, Stumptown on ABC follows Dex Parios (Cobie Smulders) as a strong, assertive, and sharp-witted army Veteran with a complicated love life, gambling debt, and a brother to take care of in Portland, Oregon. Her military intelligence skills make her a great private investigator, but her unapologetic style puts her in the firing line of hardcore criminals and not quite in alliance with the police.

In episode 11 that aired on January 15, Dex is approached by Jeremy Stevens, a veteran who recently learned he was adopted and wants to find his real parents. Dex decides to start attending a Veterans’ peer support group that Jeremy recommends to her.  In subsequent episodes, Dex goes to her first peer support group meeting, which inspires her to take action and stand up for herself in a situation that requires strong self-advocacy. Dex also meets a kindred soul in a former army investigator at the support group. They connect over their experience with trauma and adjusting to post-military life.

As DBSA continues to educate people about the power and value of peer support, we acknowledge the highlight of this evidence-based practice in pop culture. Additionally, you, our advocates are the advertisement. If you or someone you know is seeking a DBSA support group, please share this link to our support finder or forward this newsletter.

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