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Wellness Workforce Coalition Has A Lot to Celebrate

July 28, 2015

A mental health and addiction recovery organization formed in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene is gaining momentum and making strides. The Wellness Workforce Coalition, a statewide coalition of peer-run organizations supporting training and advocacy for Vermont’s peer workforce, launched a new website on July 24.

In 2012, the Vermont Department of Mental Health invested in peer-to-peer services after the closing of the Vermont State Hospital.

“We believe that people who have psychiatric disabilities themselves and have been through mental health systems can offer support to someone currently having similar experiences and we call that peer-to-peer support,” said Sarah Launderville, executive director of the Vermont Center for Independent Living. “Oftentimes we hear that people feel scared and alone and talking to someone who truly understands those feelings from their own personal experiences is invaluable.”

WWC Coordinator Julie Brisson noted that while the coalition has been around and doing good work for a while, it will now be easier to share information about that work.

“We are thrilled about our new website, which includes our member organizations, support groups throughout the state, trainings and conferences and resources for people with mental health and addiction recovery issues.”

She added, “The site allows us to spread the word about advocacy events and news about what’s going on in terms of peer services in Vermont.”

The website, www.wwcvt.org, was designed by Dadra Design, a Vermont company focusing on the needs of small businesses, nonprofits, music and artists.

Brisson and coalition members are also excited about the formation of a new peer cadre in Lamoille County designed to offer peer support to people in crisis at the hospital. A person who, for example, is waiting to be seen in the emergency room, may be very upset, and someone who has had a similar experience can relate to that person in a very meaningful way, whether that means playing cards with them or simply keeping them company while, for example, the person is transferred to a psychiatric facility. All of the peer cadre workers have lived experience and have received very specialized training.
Brisson said, “Sometimes just having a conversation with someone who is in crisis, or offering them something as simple as a beverage and a snack, can change their whole focus.”

The peer cadre formed in April is a partnership between Lamoille County Mental Health Services and Copley Hospital in Morrisville.

It is modeled after a Northeast Kingdom Human Services Peer Cadre — a partnership between Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital and Northeast Kingdom Human Services with grant funding from Vermont Psychiatric Survivors.

Peer cadre benefits to the community are both concrete (such as saving healthcare costs by often making it possible for people to avoid hospital stays) and intangible (saving wear and tear on people’s psyches).

“The Wellness Workforce Coalition would love to have peer cadres form all over the state,” Brisson said, noting that the WWC also offers Intentional Peer Support (IPS) and Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) trainings around the state for anyone doing peer support work.

The WWC is committed to preserving the autonomy, character and contributions of each member organization. Member organizations include: Alyssum, Inc., Another Way, Friends of Recovery Vermont, Green Mountain Self-Advocates, NAMI Vermont, Northeast Kingdom Youth Services Peer Wellness Program, The Wellness Coop/Pathways Vermont/Soteria House, Turning Point Center of Rutland, Vermont Center for Independent Living, the Vermont Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, Vermont Foundation of Recovery, Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, Vermont Support Line/Pathways Vermont, and Vermont Vet to Vet.