Press-Republican

December 12, 2012

New service offers peer support for people with mental illness

By JEFF MEYERS
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — A new program being offered locally provides peer support for people dealing with mental-health issues.

Impeerium Peer Network recently opened at 14 Healey Ave., Suite E, to give North Country residents a helping hand, verbal support or just an ear to bend when facing the complicated world of mental-health disorders.

FUNDED BY GRANT

The New York State Office of Mental Health earmarked money for recovery centers across the state, said Sheri King, program director for the new service.

“We received a three-year grant for approximately $700,000.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness-Champlain Valley submitted a proposal to the Community Services Board detailing how it would like to establish a peer-to-peer program to give residents with mental illness another option for support.

The Community Services Board approved the concept, paving the way for NAMI-CV to oversee the new office for the next three years.

“Our ultimate goal is that at the end of this grant, we will become a self-sustaining organization,” King said. “Peer support (for mental-health services) is what the state is looking for, and we expect to be here for the long term.”

CONNECTIONS

King was hired for the position earlier this summer and has spent the past few months creating a system that centers on peer-support providers.

“It is clearly a peer-to-peer program,” she said of the four employees who have been hired to offer peer support.

In a traditional support program, she explained, a person with a mental-health illness would schedule appointments with a therapist in a clinician/client format.

With peer-to-peer services, residents seeking support can call or visit the Impeerium Peer Network offices to receive assistance from people who have shared the kinds of experiences they face.

“It’s sometimes easier to talk to somebody who’s walked the walk,” she said. “If I have depression and you have a bipolar disorder, we may not have the same illness, but I understand the stigma attached (to mental illness).”

SPECIALISTS

The four employees each specializes in a service of significance for people seeking help:

▶ The skills builder can assist people in learning certain skills, such as using the computer or applying for a job.

▶ The support specialist offers emotional support for those tough times everyone faces.

▶ The community-integration specialist offers support for people who are having difficulty entering public settings.

▶ The benefits adviser provides support in completing applications for such services as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

“We’re here to empower other individuals having difficulty accessing services in the community,” King said.

Impeerium will also have close contact with area clinical services when clients need support beyond what the Peer Network has to offer, she added.

When first looking at the service as a peer-recovery center, King felt there was a need to find a name that was truly special for the program’s objects.

DelVina Herbest submitted the name Impeerium, identifying a need to include the word “peer” with the idea of providing individuals with the ability to overcome obstacles.

Email Jeff Meyers: jmeyers@pressrepublican.com

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TO LEARN MORE

Impeerium Peer Network/NAMI-CV will hold an open house at its new office, 14 Healey Ave., Suite E, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

Light refreshments will be offered.

Anyone wishing to access services from Impeerium Peer Network can call 324-6250 to make an appointment or can simply walk in during office hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.