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Peer support service works. The verdict on peer-link

Posted Mar 22 2011 10:48pm

Last year TMHCA (Tennessee Mental Health Consumers Association)  a peer run, peer owned organization started an ambitious program to help people stay out of psychiatric hospitals.  It was called “Peer-link” and was based on a simple idea.  Peer support specialists could help other consumers from being caught in a never ending cycle of hospitalization.  The idea was to pair up peer support specialists with people who had a history of chronic hospitalization, have them act as coach, advocate, cheerleader…. whatever was needed.

They partnered with Yale University who agreed to do a study to see how it all worked.  A similiar program was done in Wisconsin at the same time.  The results are in and they are astounding.  People like Anthony Fox, Connie Levenhagen, and Lori Rash among many are to be congratulated for a truly transformative program that if given the chance to be done on a wide scale basis could change much of what is done for people with mental illness.

The report from Yale was given at the American College for Behavioral Health Leadership annual meeting.  Attendees voted for the peer run organizational model as perhaps the most innovative and transformational model currently being discussed.

According to Yale, peer link in Tennessee reduced the rate of psychiatric hospitalization of the people it served 77%.  Statistics say under normal conditions 20% of the people hospitalized are re admitted within a month.  40% are readmitted withing a year.  The people that TMHCA dealt with averaged about 24 days of hospitalization a year.  The average length of stay in Tennessee is about 3-4 days.  So these people were going into the hospital about 7-8 times a year.  And Peer LInk decreased that 77%.  Just think of the implications of that  program on a wide spread basis.  Amazing.  Peer support works.  It changes lives and could change the system in great ways given the chance.

It has been hope operationalized for people who knew little.  I hope more people get the chance to benefit from this.


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