Over the past several years Tennessee’s mental health system has integrated people with lived experience of mental health conditions and addictions working within its system of care. People with lived experience have proven to be a beneficial addition to treatment teams and also excellent at providing direct care. Because of once needing care and traveling the stormy path of recovery, people with lived experience understand the complicated treatment and environmental needs of people experiencing psychiatric episodes and struggling with addictions.
Earlier this year the Tennessee Mental Health Consumers’ Association (TMHCA) was appropriated $425,000 by Tennessee’s General Assembly that will help expand peer-to-peer services throughout Tennessee. The legislation was sponsored by Representative Gerald McCormick (R- Chattanooga) and Senator John Stevens (R- Huntingdon) and designated to TMHCA’s already established Peer Intensive Care Program that currently operates in parts of East and Middle Tennessee.
Anthony Fox, CEO of the Tennessee Mental Health Consumers’ Association said “this is another huge accomplishment for the peer movement and very appropriate it happened in our State. We are a very clever and open minded state when it comes to strategizing appropriate mental health care. The leaders in our state are progressive thinkers and mental health survivors and providers collaborate really well.”
The program currently operates at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute, Helen Ross McNabb Center and Mental Health Cooperative. The program will be expanded to Western Mental Health Institute in Bolivar, Memphis Mental Health Institute and Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute in Chattanooga and will serve people needing inpatient psychiatric care in all parts of the state.
The Peer Intensive Care Program has both clinical and environmental goals. The main clinical goal is to reduce the need for repeat psychiatric hospitalizations by providing immediate assistance following discharge from the hospital for patients who voluntarily enroll in the program. A program specialist will make initial contact 24 hours after a person’s discharge from a hospital. They will coordinate, schedule or attend (with) patient’s first appointment; assist with intake and recovery planning within fourteen days of discharge; and make weekly contact for ninety days after discharge. Environmental goals are considered equally important. A patient will be provided necessary community resources prior to and during discharge and offered education and support to help patients make successful transitions back into their communities.
“The Peer Engagement Project has been an exciting program to help develop for Tennesseans” said Stacey Murphy, TMHCA Chief Operations Officer. “Without adequate supports in the community inpatient recidivism rates will continue to rise. I know first-hand how important having an integrated support system is to living in recovery.” Ms. Murphy is responsible for design and operations of the Peer Intensive Care Program.
More information about the program can be obtained by contacting Michael Lasser, Program Director, at 615 835 2229.