Inspiring hope through peer support, new regulations could change its effectiveness

Posted at 5:50 AM, Mar 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-27 09:49:38-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — When people are struggling it can be hard to find someone who can relate. But there's one type of support service designed to not only do that but also help both people get better together.

People who help those struggling with mental illness are concerned about new regulations which could change the way peer support works. They say plans to make peer support a more formal and clinical experience would make the experience less effective.

“It just destroyed me, it just destroyed me, when you're that close to almost dying you just never forget it,” said Jacob Hausman, Regional Consumer Specialist at Region 6 Behavioral Health Center.

“When I was in my mess, nobody was there for me,” said Carmella Barlow, a Certified Peer Support Specialist.

"It interrupted everything,” said SusiKay Williams, a peer support recipient.

Jacob Hausman, Carmella Barlow, and SusiKay Williams have one thing in common. At one point in their life they found themselves needing support from someone who understood what they were going through. Known as peer support. “We're someone that is in recovery ourselves from substance abuse, from mental health and we can share our story of recovery to kind of inspire hope in those people,” said Hausman.

Peer support can be provided in many different ways. Mainly in person or over the phone. “Some people don't have no support, and Safe Harbor we are their only support that they have,” said Barlow.

Safe Harbor is a section of Community Alliance. It provides a warm line where people experiencing a crisis can call or stop by 24/7. “Basically, what we are trying to do is help them move towards a self-directed recovery path,” said Keith Pudvah, Peer Support Specialist at Safe Harbor.

Those involved in peer support say it's beneficial because it isn't treated as a clinical experience with barriers that signify one person is in better condition than the other. "Peers have expressed to me that they don't wish to be identified as staff because that creates a barrier between two people trying to get well together,” said Dr. Jai Sookram, Manager for Peer and Family Services at Community Alliance.

Peer support used to be two people getting better together. Now depending on if you pay for it with either federal or state funds your support services will look very different.

The two are outlined differently but some would argue that peer support shouldn't be followed based on guidelines but with personal connections and necessary support.

"Unfortunately, in the mental health field a lot of our services have been disappearing and we really need services to come back,” said Pudvah. “It's so important to share my experience because it's healing to myself too in that while it inspires hope in someone else it inspires hope in me too,” said Hausman.