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Fostering Hope for Mental Health Recovery: HHSA Peer Support Specialists

Published September 25, 2020
  • HHSA
  • Mental Health Access
  • Mental Health
  • Affordable Housing
  • Adult Services
When a person is in mental health recovery, there are times when they might feel hopeless and alone. Navigating complex systems of care while simultaneously coping with symptoms can be overwhelming. Luckily, HHSA has Peer Support Specialists who can walk alongside people in recovery, providing relief and empowerment.

Recently, we took some time to get to know Jehoisabiah “Josie” Englin and Denise Green, who are two Peer Support Specialists serving in the HHSA Adult Services Branch. We learned about their work and some of the ways they have helped revamp the peer support program along with Community Development Coordinator, Rhonda Schultz.

“The most exciting thing about this program is that it is for peers, by peers using what they do best,” says Rhonda Schultz, Community Development Coordinator. “It capitalizes on the strengths of peer support.”

What is a Peer Support Specialist?

Peer Support Specialists are people who live with mental illness or who have a loved one with mental illness they have supported through the process and have learned how to get well and stay well. They bring with them the insight they’ve gained from their personal journeys with mental health recovery. They provide support to clients in several different settings, including affordable housing, such as The Woodlands, board and care homes such as Le Brun, Sail House, Gilmore House, RidgeView, the Crisis Residential Recovery Center and local inpatient psychiatric facilities like Restpadd and Shasta Regional Medical Center’s Center for Behavioral Health.

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Jehoisabiah "Josie" Englin is a Peer Support Specialist at the Woodlands, a supportive housing complex in Redding. 

“I can share personal experiences and show my peers that there are things they can do to get through it. That there is hope, it will get better and they are not alone in the process,” says Josie. She manages symptoms related to Major Depressive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Denise Green lives with schizophrenia and remembers what it was like to be hospitalized. Accepting her illness and prescribed treatment was a battle.

“Before, I would do anything to get out (of the hospital) and only stay on treatment because I wanted to get out.” After many years of trying different types of medication and therapy, she found her stride. “It’s a matter of finding what works for you,” she says.

Mental Health Translators:

The peer support program serves as a bridge for any gaps that may occur between service providers and the individuals/families we serve.  Peers can relate to others in a non-clinical, more personal way as they have a similar lived experience. Peers are positive role models and offer hope to others, demonstrating by their own life that recovery is possible. Peer Support Specialists are well versed in the language of recovery and often take on the role of “translator,” improving communication between clients and their mental health team. Sometimes a client might feel they’ve had a bad experience with a clinician, but it could just be a miscommunication. In situations such as these, Peer Support Specialists serve as a liaison and translate the concerns of the client to the clinician and vice versa. Josie says that being a translator clarifies everyone’s needs, raising awareness for all parties involved in the person’s care.

 “Translation is advocacy,” says Josie. “The quicker clients can get answers, the more likely they are to stay connected with services.”

When a person feels powerless, having the support of someone who knows the process can make a difference. Denise says clients might be afraid to talk about certain issues with their mental health providers because they fear what might come next, such as hospitalization.

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Denise Green works with the STAR team at Shasta County Mental Health

“Being a Peer Support Specialist, I understand firsthand. Sometimes if I feel I am having a bad day, it might just be a bad day and not a symptom of my illness. It’s important to be able to differentiate between a bump in the road and an issue where someone needs to be hospitalized shared Green.

Values that Foster Wellness.

Both Josie and Denise uphold the Peer Support program’s values—recovery, honor, hope, independence, accountability and intention—and apply them to the peers they serve.

For Josie, honor is an important value.

“I have an unconditional high regard for our peers. I hold them in a place of reverence when it comes to their own mental health. Nobody knows you, like you. We work together to figure out what recovery is and what they want it to look like … that creates an atmosphere for people to come to you for help,” says Josie.

Denise values accountability and respecting personal choices in recovery—even when those decisions have a downside. When that happens, she says there’s no need to apologize.

“Why should I be disappointed in you, when you’re disappointed in yourself,” says Denise. “I respect every choice that you make, as long as it is your decision … I’ll meet you in the place that you are in that moment. My belief in you is only going to go so far. The more you believe in yourself, the more you’ll feel empowered.”

Want to know more about Peer Support?

Contact Rhonda Schultz at (530) 225-3802 between 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. on weekdays, or email rmschultz@co.shasta.ca.us.

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Contact Community Relations:

Amy Koslosky, Supervising Community Education Specialist, (530) 225-5970

Christopher Diamond, Media Liaison for Stand Against Stigma, In-Home Support Services, Adult Services and Mental Health, and alcohol and drug programs., (530) 229-8484

Jill Haskett, Media Liaison for CalWORKs, CalFresh, Medi-Cal,  Work Readiness, Women, Infant and Children (WIC) programs, Adult Protective Services, and other immediate need services, (530) 229-8413

Tim Mapes, Media Liaison for public health programs, Healthy Shasta, Emergency Preparedness, Foster parent programs and programs for children, (530) 245-6863

Jeri Butler, Senior Public Health Assistant, (530) 225-3689

Front Desk, (530) 245-6862

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