Been There, Done That: Peer Specialists

Ten years ago, Jae Novotny was an accountant who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Then, the 2008 financial crisis hit, and she lost her job and health insurance. On the recommendation of her doctor, she contacted North Range. After success in treatment, her therapist recommended that Novotny become a Peer Specialist.

Today, Novotny is not only a Peer, but she trains other Peer Specialists and supervises five at SPOT, the drop-in site also known as Seeing Positive Outcomes Together. Peer Specialists work across North Range adult programs. In fact, North Range Crisis Respite is the only respite in the state wholly staffed by Peers.

Novotny exudes optimism while explaining recovery and being a Peer. Two months after completing training herself, North Range hired her. “The best way to describe being a Peer,” said Novotny, “is that we help provide hope. Peers give people experiencing mental health crises a been-there-done-that-survived-it-you.can-do-it perspective. We’ve lived the experience. And we can share it.”

Novotny says during training, she learned how to deal with situations she might encounter. The training also provides Peers with skills to communicate and solve problems. “A lot of it is getting to know yourself,” she said. “The steps of recovery are never in order. You can’t go one, two, three, four, five. It might be one, two, three, then back to one, then maybe five. We Peers have to see where someone is and meet them where they are.”

Peers, Novotny said, capitalize on the added advantage of experience. “We’re proof that you can come out the other side and be okay. Recovery is possible. Hope is possible.”

"At the end of each day, I leave work with a sense of enjoyment—knowing I was able to help someone get one step closer toward reaching their goal. Bringing hope to those who have given up is why I wake up and go to work. I let my clients know that they are not in this alone; I’m standing right here beside them."

(Julie Chandler, True North Peer Specialist)

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