August 19, 2011 OHA Director's messages on the web
To: All OHA employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., Director

Learning from each other

"Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light." ~ Norman B. Rice

No one understands the path we are walking better than those who have walked it before. This idea is the heart of the peer-delivered services movement under way in Oregon for addictions and mental health care. In other words, the human element is as important as any medication or therapy.

In recent years, the field of mental health has embraced what people in the addictions field have understood for decades - that one of the most important tools for recovery is the support and guidance of someone with similar experiences, challenges and circumstances.

That's why peer-delivered services are an essential part of our health reform efforts. Under local coordinated care, peer wellness should be integrated into behavioral and physical care for better overall care that's both effective and more efficient.

Much of the groundwork for this coordination has already been laid. In local communities, peer counselors help clients learn life skills, and consumer-run service centers offer clients job assistance and recovery-oriented classes. The Oregon Family Support Network connects parents of children with behavioral or emotional challenges with peer-delivered services that enhance children's resiliency so that, whenever possible, they can successfully live at home, stay in school, and participate in their community. Another great example is Mid Valley Behavioral Care Network's Project Able, a consumer care partnership providing support teams to help clients successfully integrate into the community.

The Oregon State Hospital is also moving forward with its own peer-delivered service initiatives. The hospital has created an entirely new department called Recovery Services, possibly the first of its kind in the nation. Peer recovery specialists share an equal role with the other clinical disciplines as active members of treatment teams. The hospital is also in the early stages of implementing a new peer mentor program where patients who are farther along in their own recovery can help those who are newer to the hospital. Once it's fully operational, trained patients will work through the vocational rehabilitation program to provide mentor services, teaching new patients how to navigate the hospital system and helping them understand how to take the lead in their own recovery.

As health reform moves forward, there will be many more opportunities for using peer-delivered services. The concept can be applied to people fighting cancer or managing chronic conditions like diabetes who can benefit from a mentor who has faced the same challenges.

The philosophy behind all of these exciting peer-delivered services and initiatives helps ground the OHA vision of a healthy Oregon in the human element. We can and should provide specialized care and state-of-the-art technology, but it's the personal connection, the hope that we hold for each other, that helps us heal.

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