Peer Services in Crisis & Acute Settings


In acute inpatient and crisis settings, where people are under extreme personal stress, peer services make a huge impact. Having someone to connect with who has "walked the talk" can create a bridge into services that might otherwise be hard to achieve.

"Clients open up to the peer support counselors and share with them what they are wanting to see as far as their treatment outcomes," says Jim Presson, administrator of Telecare Recovery Partnership in Lakewood, Washington. "With the peer support people running most of the groups or co-facilitating with rehab therapists, they do a very good job of making the initial bond with a client."

Telecare currently uses two peer-based models in our acute inpatient and crisis programs: designated peer-support specialists, and employees with lived experience. We'll begin implementing a third method this summer, using external peer supports who will work side-by-side with staff and clients.

We've learned that embedding some essential elements into crisis and acute programs can help create exceptional experiences with our peer-based experts:

  • Visibility, leadership, and  hands-on connection with persons served.
  • Excellent communication skills and communication training.
  • The power to advocate for clients and make the program better.

Two of Telecare's programs, Telecare Recovery Partnership and Multnomah County Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center (CATC) are great examples of the benefits of a peer support system. Click here to read more.  

Peer Support Specialist Ashleigh Brenton from Multnomah County CATC. Photo by Benjamin Brink/ The Oregonian .

Peer Support Specialist Ashleigh Brenton from Multnomah County CATC. Photo by Benjamin Brink/The Oregonian.

Peer to Peer: That's Where Magic Happens

Thomas Mayo is Team Lead at Telecare's Los Angeles TABS109 program and is a perfect example of the power of peer services. According to Thomas, the main gift he brings to his work is that he has had many of the same life experiences as his clients. "They believe me when I say they can do it, because I am them," he said. 

Thomas was hired as a Substance Abuse Specialist by Telecare's Los Angeles ATLAS program in 2006. He was inspired to return to school to get a Human Services Bachelor's degree, which would make it possible for him to play an even greater role in the organization, as well as enrich the work he does with clients. Thomas helped implement Telecare's Full Service Partnership for ex-offenders with mental illness funded under AB109 (Public Safety Realignment). "[Our clients] are always surprised to learn that we are here to assist them in what they want to accomplish. We're not here to dictate what they should do. That's what makes Telecare different."