Recognizing the Value of Peer Support

“Peer support is a naturally occurring, mutually beneficial support process, where people who share a common experience meet as equals, sharing strengths and hope, allowing people to learn ways of coping from each other. Formalized peer support begins when persons with lived experience [knowledge gained from mental health and addiction challenges – either personally or through family members], who have received specialized training, assume unique designated roles…to support an individual’s expressed wishes.”
Addictions and Mental Health Ontario, Best Practices in Peer Support 

There has been growing recognition in major federal, provincial and LHIN strategic planning documents of the value of peer support in both client recovery and harm reduction, and that integration of peer support and expertise into the mental health and addiction service system is critical to enhancing access to these services. 

“The one-on-one help was fantastic. It really helped give me some ideas. Your (peer worker) story of recovery gave me hope and makes me feel not alone in my situation.”

In 2014-2015, Mississauga Halton LHIN’s System Integration Group for Mental Health and Addictions (SIGMHA) identified peer support as the highest priority for addressing mental health and addiction service needs in the Mississauga Halton LHIN region. 

The development and effective integration of peer support into the Halton and Mississauga mental health and addiction system is occurring through the Sustaining Peer Support Initiative. Through this initiative, the Mississauga Halton LHIN and its partners, have embarked on a leading-edge journey. Lessons learned have the potential to transform the local addictions and mental health services system, and to be scaled up to encourage transformation across other LHIN regions, the province and the country.  

Working Together to Sustain Peer Support in the Mississauga Halton LHIN

A number of people/partners working on the Sustaining Peer Support Initiative in the Mississauga Halton LHIN gather for a group picture

Vision: Build capacity for peer support through best and emerging practices and principles; bridge mental health, substance use and concurrent peer expertise; and connect this pioneering initiative to the larger systems regionally, provincially and nationally. 

Through the Sustaining Peer Support Initiative, social change is being introduced into a complex health care system to allow for a shift to recovery and person-centred care. The initiative will support the Mississauga Halton LHIN’s overall vision for optimal health care through the following:
 

  • Enhanced capacities of, supports to and empowerment of people with lived experience and families/caregivers
  • A more coordinated and integrated mental health and addiction system of support
  • The recognition and integration of peer support as a viable and valued part of addiction and mental health treatment and recovery
  • Enhanced local networks of peer support and improved connection to other regional, provincial and national network initiatives and systems

 

Through investments by the Mississauga Halton LHIN, 40 paid peer positions are embedded across 11 health service providers (HSPs) including mental health and addiction, community agencies and hospitals. Led by Support & Housing-Halton through its peer initiative TEACH, integration of the new peer support programs have occurred through community collaboration, partnerships and innovative practices in program development and management.

Logos of the mental health and addiction health service providers in the Mississauga Halton LHIN that are integrating peer support into their services

The number of peer support workers within HSPs focused on mental health and substance uses has been increased collaboratively with partners, while the capacity of peer workers, supervisors, agencies and the community to understand and validate peer work – as both a key service option and a major component to person-centred/person-directed care – continues to grow.

Alignment with Mississauga Halton LHIN’s Strategic Plan

Investing in peer support is in alignment with Mississauga Halton LHIN’s 2016-2019 Integrated Health Service Plan. The strategic plan and priorities reflect the voices of our citizens and what is needed to build a stronger health care system for the people in our local communities. Specific goals and strategies reflecting peer support are listed below:


Quality
  • Provide patients and their families with more control over the services that they need by exploring self-directed care opportunities
  • Be inclusive of people’s circle of support in the planning and provision of care delivery models
  • Involve people with lived experience as active team members on program development or quality improvement committees by utilizing experience based design
Capacity
  • Advance peer support initiatives and networks to leverage the expertise and knowledge of people with lived experience

Annual Peer Knowledge Exchange Event

2016

On December 7, 2016 the Peer Knowledge Exchange event gathered more than 130 peers, peer supervisors and peer allies to celebrate movements in peer work and build capacity to continue growing together. Keynote speakers included: 

  • Ian Dawe; Program Chief and Medical Director, Mental Health; Trillium Health Partners
  • Robyn Priest; Resiliency Unleashed Training Consultant; Peer Support Accreditation Certification Canada, Board member
2015

On September 24, 2015 the Our Beautiful Minds event gathered over 90 peers and peer allies. A current state review of substance use and mental health peer support and determining future direction were undertaken. A graphic artist captured a visual representation of the event’s discussion:


Click on image to view a larger version.

Graphic representation by a visual artist of the vision of peer support from the 2015 Our Beautiful Minds event Graphic representation by a visual artist of the current state of peer support from the 2015 Our Beautiful Minds event

Moving Forward

The Sustaining Peer Support Initiative continues to be integrated into provincial initiatives around peer work, valuing the voice of people with lived experience and families. It is being supported by the Excellent Through Quality Improvement Project (EQIP) to evaluate the perception of peer values in practice. This will help to inform the quality of peer work and how best to support it moving forward.

Additionally, a Peer Supervisor Training Toolkit will be produced with the help of international and provincial peer agencies and consultants.

Additional Resources

Understanding and Implementing Peer Support

Peer Support Services

If you currently receive service or will be receiving service from one of the mental health and addiction health service providers in the Mississauga Halton LHIN and are interested in peer support, please speak directly to the respective health service provider.

Peer Support Initiative in the Mississauga Halton LHIN
Peer Support Initiative in Ontario


For More Information

Building Capacity for Peer Support Workers, Supervisors and Health Service Providers
  • Betty-Lou Kristy, Peer Support Substance Use System Lead; Support & Housing-Halton/TEACH
  • Christina Jabalee, Peer Support System Lead; Support & Housing-Halton/TEACH
System Planning and Development
  • Ed Castro, Senior Lead, Health System Development, Mississauga Halton LHIN
  • Heather Kundapur, Senior Lead, Health System Performance, Mississauga Halton LHIN

Peer Work is based on Core Values: 

  • Hope and recovery
  • Self-determination
  • Empathetic and equal relationships
  • Health and wellness
  • Dignity, respect and social inclusion 
  • Integrity, authenticity and trust
  • Lifelong learning and personal growth

“Recognizing the important role peers play in both addiction and mental health treatment and recovery, the Mississauga Halton LHIN has increased peer support capacity, and invested to support service coordination, and training and development of peer support workers and supervisors. Enhancing peer support is an essential component of a more coordinated and integrated mental health and addiction system that delivers high quality care for positive person experiences and outcomes to people in our communities.”
 — Bill MacLeod, CEO, Mississauga Halton LHIN