Agreements are in place between PSO and a number of Ottawa-area hospitals The team provides groups and individual support to people in the community, with a particular focus on supporting people as they transition home from the hospital environment. All staff have are experienced peer support workers, have undergone a training process at PSO, as well as corporate orientation provided by hospitals for employees.
The program has been in operation since the fall of 2013. Psychiatric Survivors of Ottawa (PSO) is the employer of the Recovery Connections Team. PSO has been providing community-based peer support services for over twenty years, and has also been providing family support in recent years.
Why Did We Develop the Program?
The Recovery Connections Program was developed by community mental health organizations and hospitals to specifically address priorities identified by people who had used hospital services for mental health and/or substance use reasons as well as their family members. We spoke to 250 clients, family members and hospital staff in the winter of 2012 and developed the Recovery Connections program, as well as the call-back service available to people post-hospital discharge.
Our work is consistent with findings from a literature scan conducted by the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health for the consultation project. In particular, implementation of peer support in hospital settings was recognized as an initiative that decreased repeat use of hospital services (in addition to significantly improving people’s quality of life and recovery).
In addition, the “Health Information Sheet” and Emergency Department discharge checklist were developed for use by patients and families accessing hospital services, and these have been implemented in the Emergency at the Montfort.
What is Peer and Family Peer Support?
Through a combination of lived experience, training and education, peer support workers and family peer support workers engage with clients and families to provide supportive listening, mentorship, information about community resources as appropriate, and share hope and personal empowerment.
Functions provided are similar to mutual support models used in the other sectors, including cancer, AIDS/HIV and diabetes.
Non clinical service is complementary to the clinical services provided by hospital staff.
The team is there to walk with people, not to help them – that can seem counter-intuitive; however, the team is there to learn about the person, understand and listen.
How do You Contact the Peer or Family Peer Support Worker?
Contact Information for each of the hospital sites is available in the program brochure at each hospital.
Any person can receive the program brochure and can contact the team directly, whether they are in hospital or in the community.
Hospital staff on inpatient units sometimes specifically identify patients or families they would like the team to make contact with.
Peer or Family Peer Supporter Will Not:
Provide information, education or advice about medication and/or treatment planning of any kind.
Speak about the patient and/or family to hospital staff without the person's consent, except in situations where they are concerned the person is at imminent risk of harming themselves or someone else, there is a minor at risk.
Participate in care, treatment planning or discharge planning without the patient being present.
Interfere in the provision of care between patients and hospital staff.
Provide support to hospital staff in encouraging patients to access any type of health service or treatment – hospital staff will still be working directly with patients with respect to the clinical services.
How Has the Implementation of Peer and Family Peer Support Worked so Far?
The first phase of program evaluation took place in Winter 2014 – program participants believe the support they received translated to:
Higher levels of engagement in treatment planning and goal setting.
Having more involvement of family members in the recovery process.
Having more information about community resources including peer support and family support programs in the community.
An increased knowledge of tools that can support people in their wellness.
An increased belief that recovery is possible and there is hope.
There was also strong suport from hospital staff for the program, who also provided feedback that the program decreased staff workload and provided a unique type of support for patients and families.