Peer Support is the newest work group being formed as part of the Fairbanks Reentry Coalition. Peer support is the process of people who have personal lived experience with mental illness or mental illness with co-occurring substance abuse disorder giving their peers encouragement, hope and understanding to support their recovery.
There are several factors that are leading to the development of this work group.
First of all, there is a position on the ACT/ICM Team being explored by the Fairbanks Housing and Homeless Coalition called a Certified Peer Support Specialist. At this time there is not a local/state certification process or formalized training for peer support. This will be a paid position that is billable for the agency employing the Peer Support Specialist. We will be advocates for this certification.
Secondly, for reentry we are adding a requirement of involvement with the justice system. While becoming a Certified Peer Support Specialist may require a clear background check we know that there is a place for peer support from those with the lived experience of reentry. How we navigate this issue will be a focus of our work group.
Finally, the need is apparent, our returning citizens need peers who can help them learn to ride the bus, find the offices for needed services, learn to budget and model recovery. In my mind they represent a hand of compassion to navigate the confusion, loss and grief that are part of recovery from mental illness, substance use disorder and incarceration.
There are a few places in Fairbanks that model peer support for us, the recovery community with groups like AA, NA, Oxford House and NAMI Fairbanks with their Peer 2 Peer program. The Alaska Peer Support Consortium and The Criminal Justice System Transformation Project plan to support the use of Forensic Peer Support and its concepts to support a system for the successful reentry of Alaskans with behavioral health challenges. Our work group will follow the work of these local programs and statewide initiatives.
Our first meeting is this week; contact me if you would like to get involved. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s important that we share our experiences with other people. Your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. When you tell your story, you free yourself and give other people permission to acknowledge their own story.” –Iyanla Vanzant