Recently, peers in regions of North Carolina have contacted NC CANSO for information and support about operating a peer-operated support center. As a result, the Board of Directors of NC CANSO has determined it is time to offer such support–technical assistance, information sharing, and fellowship–to peer groups in other communities wishing to establish a low-cost center.
In July, the GreenTree Peer Center in Winston-Salem will be celebrating its third anniversary! What we have learned is that a peer center is indispensible in a community. It becomes, in effect, a true safety net in a system where necessary support is not offered through conventional services. In fact, our referrals come from provider agencies, from local and state hospitals, from mental health court, and from homeless transition programs. THESE agencies value the role of social connection in supporting changes successfully.
We have learned that a peer center becomes a place where:
- Strong, trusting relationships are formed
- People feel safe to share about their experiences in a “judgement free zone.
- The reality of trauma and its impact on people’s lives are respected and doors can be opened to trauma-informed care
- People face decreasing levels of crisis circumstances. Hospitalizations are greatly reduced.
- People realize that self-care is holistic and calls for healthier living
- People start envisioning a different future for themselves
Currently, there is no funding stream for peer centers, but NC CANSO is certainly advocating for this at the state level, besides learning about what may be possible at the community level. Because these centers are indeed so beneficial! Besides their role in reducing hospitalization, we need them to aid persons transitioning from institutional living to life in the community.
Social isolation is one of the biggest threats to the likelihood of recovery. Research addresses the role of social connection in mental health. Yet where else is it offered in our communities? Peer centers prevent this isolation–so dangerous to any of us! And they offer the mutual support and self-help so welcomed by people who want to step forward into a lifeless defined by illness and more defined by the individuals that they themselves are! Isn’t this what we all want?
There is strength in our working together and we can accomplish more for promoting recovery in our state if we step out, take risks (rather, BE INNOVATIVE), and get going with this! Further, our joint efforts will enrich the level of recovery advocacy already starting to grow in North Carolina!
If you have a group of peers who would like to help establish one in your community, contact us so we can start the brainstorming! Or if you have begun a center governed and operated by peers and want to work together to strengthen the progress state-wide, please join us! Just email Laurie Coker at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 336-577-3743.