Should peer recovery supporters receive services from the place where they work? Or is it better to go elsewhere? This common question doesn’t have a straightforward answer. You trust the quality of your agency, but do you trust the discretion of your co-workers?
Join our hosts, Juliet C. Dorris-Williams and Gabe Howard, as they discuss the pros and cons of getting treatment close to home. Plus learn about your options and legal rights if there is a problem.
2:13 – “Even though this resource is available to them, and they have access to it, they do not go to it. They do not participate in it. They would rather go across town. They would rather go to people who don’t know them. (Many people prefer to receive mental health and addiction services anonymously.)
4:26 – “And then there’s some folk that are sitting over there waiting on the other shoe, the proverbial other shoe, to drop.” (Peer recovery supporters often receive additional negative scrutiny.)
5:21 – “I would not blame the peer for making a decision to not get their ongoing support services from the agency in which they work.” (Where to receive services is a complicated and intensely personal decision. There are no wrong answers.)
9:48 – “. . . having a mental health struggle, having a substance use struggle, is not seen in a positive light.” (The stigma of mental illness and addiction is pervasive and peer recovery supporters are not immune to it.)
19:30 – “. . . we have to insist and rely upon the policies that would apply to a client or a patient apply to us in this context. HIPPA. Privacy. Confidentiality. All of that. And if those things are violated, then those things need to be reported. That means rocking the boat. That means speaking up.” (The same policies that protect other service recipients apply to us. Part of advocacy is self-advocacy. Do not be afraid to insist upon your rights.)
Editor’s Note: This transcript is computer generated and therefore may not be an exact match to the recording.
Announcer: [00:00:06] You’re listening to the PEER Voices podcast. This show is for peers, by peers, and focuses on information that’s important to our community. Here’s your hosts Juliet Dorris-Williams and Gabe Howard.
Gabe: [00:00:26] Hello everybody and welcome to this episode of PEER Voices. My name is Gabe Howard. And with me as always is…
Juliet: [00:00:32] Juliet Doris Williams. Welcome. Welcome.
Gabe: [00:00:35] We are here to discuss should peers receive services at the places where they work. Presumably as peer supporters or certified peer recovery supporters.
Juliet: [00:00:47] Right.
Gabe: [00:00:48] And this was this was your idea, Juliet.
Juliet: [00:00:50] It was?
Gabe: [00:00:50] Yeah sure. You know, when we negotiate topics.
Juliet: [00:00:55] Yes. Yes.
Gabe: [00:00:55] We get in a dark smoky room and we’re haggling over which topic we’re gonna do next.
Juliet: [00:01:01] I hate that topic! No. Let’s not ever talk about that again. Anyway.
Gabe: [00:01:05] But this is one that you came up with for a lot of different reasons. So can you kind of, you know, just I remember why you told me you wanted to do it, but you know that the listeners weren’t here yet.
Juliet: [00:01:14] No, no they weren’t. And thank goodness lucky them. So this comes up about should peers have services in the agencies in which they work? And it’s actually bigger than that. It goes to the atmosphere, the type of agency, the management style. Yeah. It goes to and it hits on a lot of things. And so I’m going to take it out of the peer verse for a second and talk about churches. I’ve gone to a number of churches in my life and I’m old. And so a lot of, most of the churches that I’ve attended, they always have groups and they have other community groups that come in to get you know because they offer the space.
Gabe: [00:02:09] Yes, the church basement is a well-known stereotype.
Juliet: [00:02:13] So I said well and it’s not even a stereotype, it’s true, it’s absolutely true. And it’s a well-known thing that church members, even though this resource is available to them, and they have access to it, that they do not go to it. They do not participate in it. They would rather go across town they would rather go to people who don’t know them. They would rather go anywhere except the church basement that they have in the building that they go to every week, probably several times a week, where their church family is. Where in an ideal world they feel comfortable. Otherwise why would they be there?
Gabe: [00:02:56] And you got to figure it’s really close to there. I mean not to speak for everyone, but most people choose churches in their neighborhoods that are conveniently located conveniently.
Juliet: [00:03:05] Yes, located there.
Gabe: [00:03:05] They’re not driving two hours away to go to church.
Juliet: [00:03:08] They would rather go out of their way to avoid the stigma of being identified as someone who actually needs those services. As someone who needs that that level of support. And so then we come back to the peer verse right where we walk in the door and we have, “We’re peers! Yay!” And if you’re working in a normal community, if there is such a thing as a normal community mental health agency.
Gabe: [00:03:39] No, no, no, normal is a setting on a dryer. We learned that from movies.
Juliet: [00:03:43] In a general. Let’s go right General. There’s a typical community mental health agency and you’re the peer, you’re the designated peer. So you’re walking in the door and everybody knows that you’re the peer. So everybody knows that you’re the person with the lived experience so everybody knows that you’ve got the scarlet “C” on your forehead. You’re a consumer. And so you we walk into these spaces and we want to be seen as professional. But the peer thing is like where we have an orange bubble or an orange dot. I don’t know I say orange dot blot on our foreheads.
Gabe: [00:04:25] Yeah.
Juliet: [00:04:26] And so we’re walking around in this environment as the designated consumer that is supposed to be a professional. We want them to see us as professionals but we really know that there’s some folk that are like, “Yay! The peer is here!” And then there’s some folk that are sitting over there waiting on the other shoe, the proverbial other shoe, to drop.
Gabe: [00:04:46] They’re waiting for us to make a mistake and mess up so that they can say, “See, we told you it was a bad idea.”
Juliet: [00:04:51] When are they going to lose it?
Gabe: [00:04:53] Right.
Juliet: [00:04:54] When are they gonna? You know we can’t make them angry. We don’t want to stress them out.
Gabe: [00:04:59] Everything was fine before they got here, so why do I need this?
Juliet: [00:05:02] And we don’t. So you’ve got all that all that stuff, all that energy that you don’t necessarily want to deal with. And I don’t. I don’t blame them. I don’t blame them.
Gabe: [00:05:15] So the question is now when you say, just to clarify, when you say, “I don’t blame them.” You don’t blame the peer?
Juliet: [00:05:21] I don’t blame them I don’t blame I don’t blame that. I would not blame the peer for making a decision to not get their ongoing support services from the agency in which they are in which they work. I would not blame them. However not all agencies are the same.
Gabe: [00:05:40] Right. And not all agencies are the same. Not even just in terms of like the culture of the agency meaning you know peers versus medical professionals but all agencies are different. Like The PEER Center has no medical professionals. So you know peer supporters are not up against you know like psychiatrist or therapists or social workers for example. Just the one social worker who is just executive director’s.
Juliet: [00:06:01] Yup, just me.
Gabe: [00:06:01] Right. But you have you who identifies as a peer.
Juliet: [00:06:03] Right.
Gabe: [00:06:03] And as the executive director. It’s never a peer supporter versus a social worker struggle. There might be a peer supporter versus executive director struggle, but that’s a whole different podcasting podcast. But so it would be easier here.
Juliet: [00:06:20] Well it’s absolutely easier here because in spaces like The PEER Center, and I do know there are no spaces like The PEER Center. I will just say, in welcoming warm environments that value honest direct realness as it were. We talk well we do wellness we talk wellness we share our stories as you pointed out we’re all peers here. Wearing a mask is not okay here.
Gabe: [00:06:48] Right.
Juliet: [00:06:48] Because the people that we serve, our associates, our participants, they’ll call us out on it when we’re not showing up authentic here. And I want to believe, I want to have faith in humanity, and believe that there are agencies other than peer recovery agencies or peer recovery organizations that are that have those same values. That they want their people one to show up authentically to show up show up authentically and to be genuine in their regard for the people that they serve. And that is not a unique law. That’s not a peer characteristic, that’s a human characteristic, that we really wish and hope that other places, other employers, would embrace showing up and showing up authentically. So how do you expect to help somebody if you’re wearing a mask? And if you yourself are feeling, and I’m not even talking about the peer, I’m talking about the social workers, the psychiatrist, the nurses, all you know all those other professional levels, if you yourself are not feeling safe and in an environment that that values your humanity, they probably wouldn’t get services there either. So why? Why is it unique to peers? That’s a whole other question. But they probably wouldn’t either if they, if the environment that they, let’s say it’s an agency that it’s just psychiatrists, would they get services in the agency that they work?
Gabe: [00:08:25] They probably wouldn’t. That goes to all of the stigma around mental illness, addiction, and trauma because you’re probably right. A psychiatrist, a social worker, probably would not receive mental health services where they work. But let’s put that against you. I have a friend whose mother is a nurse and she had two children. She had both of her children at the hospital where she worked so she had no problem giving birth.
Juliet: [00:08:48] And I mean wow.
Gabe: [00:08:49] Yeah I’m not a lot, but you know you’re giving birth. I mean that’s what happens when you give birth, Juliet?
Juliet: [00:08:55] I have a daughter. I was in the room, so I absolutely know.
Gabe: [00:09:01] It’s no problem going there and doing this around all of her co-workers. I mean I don’t even sneeze in front of my co-workers so I’m not pushing anything out of my body.
Juliet: [00:09:11] There’s something in that hospital that are that are different than other organizations. That says something about that hospital when.
Gabe: [00:09:18] It says something about birth too. That you shouldn’t be ashamed, you should be proud.
Juliet: [00:09:22] Yeah, you should be proud.
Gabe: [00:09:24] You want to give birth around your colleagues around people that you know you’re probably thinking I know this doctor I know these nurses I know this hospital.
Juliet: [00:09:32] And I trust them.
Gabe: [00:09:33] Right. I want my child brought in among all of these people and they’re not going to think differently of you after you give birth. And if they do think differently, it’s probably positive.
Juliet: [00:09:43] Yes.
Gabe: [00:09:43] Oh she made a smart decision being here among all of us excellent people.
Juliet: [00:09:48] I think you hit on it having a mental health struggle, having a substance use, struggle is not seen in a positive light.
Gabe: [00:10:01] It’s not. And of course let’s take the analogy a little further. I’m assuming that the reason that my friend’s mother wanted to give birth in the hospital where she worked is because she believed in it so much and that’s why she worked there. So let’s say that you’re a peer that works for a place that you believe in, you know that they do good work. You’re seeing people reach recovery you know that they have good services, but you’re afraid to get services there.
Juliet: [00:10:24] Because of the stigma.
Gabe: [00:10:26] And discrimination or like you said not being seen as a professional which now means that you have to choose, we’re gonna say the second best hospital in your area and that’s assuming that you have a second. We haven’t even. We’re thinking Columbus.
Juliet: [00:10:38] Right.
Gabe: [00:10:38] There are multiple options in Columbus Ohio. There are. But in rural Ohio, that might be your only option. So now you’re driving an hour and a half away, which is you know let’s say that are in crisis in a car. You can see where this gets frustrating. It’s not so simple as, “Oh, I’ll just go to another hospital.”.
Juliet: [00:10:53] Right, no. It might be the only game in town. So.
Gabe: [00:10:57] So now you’ve got to decide, right? Do you want your co-worker to hear about your trauma? Do you want your co-worker to understand that you might be struggling? Knowing that your boss might hear, “Oh, our peer supporter might start using again.” And of course the number one way to not use again is to talk about it. The number one way to start rumors about you using again is to talk about it. So now what do you do?
Juliet: [00:11:19] Right.
Gabe: [00:11:21] And it makes us vulnerable and not the good kind of vulnerable. The negative kind like the bad kind of vulnerability.
Juliet: [00:11:27] And this goes back to why we need to focus on changing the narrative. We need to talk about ourselves and when you talk about our colleagues our peer colleagues use from a strengths perspective. I was in a, well you were there, in our last symposium where I asked the question about why peer professionals are treated differently with respect to some of the requirements on maintaining their certification maintaining or getting CEUs, using all of that.
Gabe: [00:12:05] And to drop in a little background, the specific question is how come a social worker needs one background check.
Juliet: [00:12:14] At the beginning.
Gabe: [00:12:15] And then they’re done for the rest of their lives.
Juliet: [00:12:16] And they’re done forever.
Gabe: [00:12:17] And a peer supporter needs a background check every three years.
Juliet: [00:12:19] Every two years.
Gabe: [00:12:20] Every two years, I apologize.
Juliet: [00:12:20] And they don’t have an answer.
Gabe: [00:12:26] Yeah they don’t.
Juliet: [00:12:27] So that means that even our licensing entity, we can call them that, is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because once we get to a state of wellness then something’s going to happen and we’re going to going to fall off the proverbial wellness wagon and do something untoward for which we are going to need a background check. We have to check on you.
Gabe: [00:12:56] And this is all peers.
Juliet: [00:12:57] Keep it. We keep you keep you on track, here. So.
Gabe: [00:13:00] And this is all peers. There was no compromise to be had. It wasn’t like, listen if you start off with a record, we’re gonna check you every two years to make sure that you don’t reoffend. You know we could argue all day on whether or not that’s appropriate etc. but at least you’d have the base. Look, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. They have decided that all peers are equal. Just by way of being a peer.
Juliet: [00:13:28] Right.
Gabe: [00:13:28] We have decided every day, you’re probably going to mess up.
Juliet: [00:13:31] Yep.
Gabe: [00:13:31] And I’m sure I’m sure to be fair they’re going to say, no, no, no, that’s not why. But you asked the question.
Juliet: [00:13:38] I did ask, why is this?
Gabe: [00:13:39] And what was the answer?
Juliet: [00:13:40] Well, they took notes.
Gabe: [00:13:42] They took notes?
Juliet: [00:13:43] They took notes.
Gabe: [00:13:43] And they didn’t have a solid answer for that. Although there was a mention that people had the opportunity. Anybody. It was public. I don’t know what they call it when they vet records. They just, you know, when they vet like the rules with that? With the public before they become rules ?
Juliet: [00:14:05] Oh gotcha. Whatever that process was.
Gabe: [00:14:06] Like the open meeting?
Juliet: [00:14:07] Oh the same thing.
Gabe: [00:14:09] Government organizations are required.
Juliet: [00:14:12] And that peers and everybody else had an opportunity to weigh in on those rules before that. Before they became codified. And that was correct. I think that we maybe could have paid closer attention.
Gabe: [00:14:26] Who knew?
Juliet: [00:14:26] And so that this was an unanticipated consequence of those of those rules.
Gabe: [00:14:36] So sometimes we have to accept that one there’s a lot of rules to being Ohio peer recovery supporter, and I remember those days, and there was a lot of things worthy of discussion. You can’t get to them all. You can’t pick all the battles. That’s number one, and number two, you know listen if somebody would have said, “Hey, you need a background check every two years.” Maybe I would have thought that was reasonable? Until I learned that other professions, professions that I am not a member of.
Juliet: [00:15:05] And there it is. There it is
Gabe: [00:15:06] And how would I know?
Juliet: [00:15:06] Right.
Gabe: [00:15:06] And how are you to know? I just assume that you know all of the other. I thought we were being treated fairly. I had no reason to think that we wouldn’t be.
Juliet: [00:15:15] What is your frame of reference?
Gabe: [00:15:16] Right.
Juliet: [00:15:17] And so we didn’t have a frame of reference and this is what this is what happens. And you go down a path, you make some rules, you make some policies it should be easy you think to make adjustments when you realize, Okay that wasn’t precisely what we meant by that. That wasn’t precisely what we were trying to do. But it’s hard as heck apparently to change the rules once they are once they are stamped and you know they become law and policy.
Gabe: [00:15:45] And perhaps in the grand scheme, this isn’t the biggest deal. You know I don’t know there’s a lot. You and I are both peers we both work in a peer environment.
Juliet: [00:15:55] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:15:56] I mean, we know a lot of peers and to be perfectly fair, and to speak from my own lived experience, it’s not that hard for me to get that background check. I pay 35 dollars I just do it cause it’s really easy for Gabe Howard. I want to be very clear. But I live in Columbus Ohio, the place is right down the street.
Juliet: [00:16:14] No, it’s still not easy.
Gabe: [00:16:16] No.
Juliet: [00:16:16] I mean it’s still Columbus, and your point is taken.
Gabe: [00:16:20] I’m speaking for me, that it’s pretty darn simple. I have thirty five dollars and my boss and my agency is like hey take a long lunch go get this done.
Juliet: [00:16:28] Right.
Gabe: [00:16:28] But if you live 45 minutes away from this place and maybe you make minimum wage, thirty five dollars a lot of money. That’s a tank of gas.
Juliet: [00:16:36] And we know for sure, we know because of experience, that it’s not that simple. People have to maybe go back a couple of times to you to get it done and it’s not a simple thing and you get lost and get well not even that. Is that the people in the place where you have to go get it. They don’t understand why you need it. It’s all these questions that they have about it and so.
Gabe: [00:17:00] What’s a peer supporter?
Juliet: [00:17:01] Yes.
Gabe: [00:17:02] We need it, a background check because we’re certified peer recovery supporters. What’s that? It’s through the state of Ohio. They never told us this. Well, we told him to tell you five years ago but we haven’t gotten to that yet. So I just, you’re right. Yeah it’s we are trying to professionalize the workforce and I think that in fairness to the people who work for these agencies that are looking at us and asking whether or not we’re professionals. This all does feed into it, right? If I am looking at the brand new person hired, I can only take you as seriously as you and your people take you. And while you’re behaving professionally, and I’ll give you full credit for that. You know, I’m looking at your licensing board I’m looking at how the state is handling it. I’m looking at the fact that you have to be, you know, background checked every two years. I’m looking at the fact that they keep changing the name. I’m looking at the fact there’s no central location. I’m looking at the fact that it takes nine months to become certified. And I’m thinking, is this really going to stick around?
Juliet: [00:17:58] And that’s why it’s like six different podcasts.
Gabe: [00:18:01] Yeah well yeah. I mean just great to be a little fair. I don’t want anybody listening to this thinking oh yeah every time we get a job people hate us and they’re stigmatizing us. I think this stigma is driven because we’re not organized. Some of that organization is our fault as peers.
Juliet: [00:18:19] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:18:19] But some of it is advocacy work that we need to do on the state and local level with our ADAM boards et cetera.
Juliet: [00:18:26] Yeah, we suck at advocacy, right? We do. And so we haven’t gotten I don’t I say angry enough but determined enough.
Gabe: [00:18:38] We don’t have the funds.
Juliet: [00:18:40] Well that too. And we’re not organized. We’re not organized.
Gabe: [00:18:44] It’s hard to get organized when you don’t have the funds. What comes first? Chicken or egg?
Juliet: [00:18:49] Okay. Got it. It’s messy. It’s messy.
Gabe: [00:18:52] It’s a mess but we’ve been doing this for so long.
Juliet: [00:18:52] Well.
Gabe: [00:18:57] I guess for me, to put us back on track, I just want to make sure that every peer supporter isn’t thinking Oh my God you’re right. All of our coworkers hate us. No that’s not it. They don’t it’s this misunderstanding. It’s this base misunderstanding that unfortunately we’re stuck with resolving and we need to resolve it in a professional way. We have to maintain that professionalism and some of that is get services at the place where you feel most comfortable.
Juliet: [00:19:23] Right.
Gabe: [00:19:23] And if that and if the only option is where you work. Yeah that’s going to have to be where you feel most comfortable and that’s hard.
Juliet: [00:19:30] And in our in our system and we know about this is that we have to insist and rely upon the policies that would apply to a client or a patient that it would apply to us in this context. HIPPA. Privacy, confidentiality all of that. And if those things are violated then those things need to be reported. That means rocking the boat. That means speaking up.
Gabe: [00:19:57] That means self advocacy.
Juliet: [00:19:59] Self advocacy. Hardcore. So we are hard to ignore.
Gabe: [00:20:04] Yeah. Juliet, it has been awesome hanging out with you. Do you have any final thoughts before we head on out of here?
Juliet: [00:20:10] Let’s advocate.
Gabe: [00:20:12] Advocate. Remember, educate don’t instigate.
Juliet: [00:20:18] I was going to say don’t agitate, but yeah like I won’t agitate.
Gabe: [00:20:24] Don’t agitate, educate.
Juliet: [00:20:26] Yes absolutely.
Gabe: [00:20:27] Thank you everybody for tuning in to this episode of PEER Voices. Please share us on social media. Write us on iTunes. In fact, if you are listening to this podcast, you need to tell the other peers. We still haven’t pulled together enough money for a Super Bowl ad but there’s always next year. We’ll see everybody next time.
Announcer: [00:20:45] You’ve been listening to the PEER Voices podcast sponsored by The PEER Center with a grant from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. To learn more about this podcast, please visit OhioPeers.org. To learn more about The PEER Center please visit ThePEERCenter.org. We encourage you to share this podcast with other peers in our community. Thank you for listening, and see you next time on PEER Voices.