The Peer Support Program at Riverview Psychiatric Center
Amistad operates a Peer Support program inside Riverview Psychiatric Center (the former Augusta Mental Health Institute), Maine’s largest state psychiatric hospital. Why a Peer Support Program? For many individuals, an admission to Riverview can be an overwhelming and frightening experience. A hospital admission means that patients are removed from the supports they may have from family or the community – and they enter an environment that is new and sometimes confusing.
Who are Peer Supporters?
They are individuals hired by Amistad who have personal experience with mental illness and recovery. The Peer Supporters have been there. They know first hand the struggles of living with a mental illness. They are living examples that recovery is possible — they are the evidence of it.
What can I expect from Peer Support?
Peer Supporters are with patients every step of their stay at Riverview. They are present at admissions, and there is a full-time peer supporter assigned to each of the 4 units of the hospital. There are Peer Supporters who also work on the weekends. They have the time to build relationships with patients. They will attend treatment team meetings if that is the wish of the patient. They will make sure that the patient needs are being met, and that the patient voices are being heard. And they can share their wisdom, knowledge and empathy to patients and staff in the hospital. Peer Supporters also provide support groups and wellness and recovery classes in the hospital. Is this an unusual program? To our knowledge, this may be the most serious effort to introduce peer support in any state psychiatric hospital in the country. Riverview has made peer support available to all patients, and the hospital has also made sure that staff from the Peer Support program are involved in all major decisions within the hospital.
We believe it is evidence of the commitment of Riverview Psychiatric Center to a vision of the possibility of recovery for its patients.
Julia R. Duncan
Peer Services Coordinator (Augusta Office)
250 Arsenal St Augusta, Maine 04332