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Winston-Salem, N.C., March 15, 2017 – In February, Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation received $21,000 from The Winston-Salem Foundation. This grant marks the third year of support for the addition of two peer support specialists who provide outpatient group therapy and individual sessions at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Outpatient Center in Winston-Salem.
“We are extremely grateful that The Winston-Salem Foundation’s Community Grants program has made behavioral health care a priority in recent years,” said Richard Maas, manager of behavioral health at Forsyth Medical Center. “The foundation’s provision of seed funding allows Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Behavioral Health to demonstrate that peer support is cost-effective and worthwhile.”
Peer support specialists are people living in recovery with mental illness or substance use disorder who provide support to others who can benefit from their life experiences. The North Carolina Peer Support Specialist Certification Program acknowledges that the peer has met a set of requirements necessary to provide support to individuals with behavioral health or substance use disorder.
The two peer support specialists work in two treatment tracks: behavioral health and substance use. Both tracks provide 10 or more hours of treatment each week, and the average length of stay in the intensive outpatient program is two weeks consisting of 10 sessions. Treatment includes group therapy and focuses on anxiety management, self-esteem, stress management, grief and loss, sobriety, and recovery.
This service fills current gaps in the health care continuum. As social workers assess, triage and care for patients, the peer support specialists engage with patients and, based on experiential knowledge gathered, make recommendations to the social workers for resources most likely to ensure recovery. The mission of the program is to reduce the number of relapses to a maximum of 5 percent each month and connect patients to community support resources.
“Peer support specialists possess innate, real-time awareness of services available within a community,” said Maas. “Based on their common mental health diagnosis, peer support specialists and patients connect quickly and on a deeper level. This connection motivates patients to participate in making decisions and follow their care plan.”
“Behavioral health patients have a chance to connect with peers who not only share the experience of struggling with mental illness, but also have attempted to navigate complex behavioral health resources,” said Maas. “Through the peer support specialists, Forsyth Medical Center behavioral health anticipates an improvement in patient satisfaction scores as well as a reduction in patient disposition time by 20 percent in urgent care locations.”