Peer Bridgers program expands at HMC with donor support

Department news | March 30, 2023

Harborview has implemented a Peer Bridger model of peer support since 2013, and with donor support, it is expanding the Peer Bridger program in a new way: connecting Peer Bridgers with patients from the beginning of care, right in the Psychiatric Emergency Department.

Peer Bridgers are staff members who have personally experienced mental health challenges and are successfully managing their own recovery. They have lived experience navigating recovery services within the mental health and/or substance use disorder systems and have received specialized training to help others on their own road to recovery. When patients with mental health and/or substance use problems receive support from peers, it accelerates their reintegration into the community, increases the use of outpatient services and reduces the likelihood of future hospitalizations.

Harborview currently has four Peer Bridgers who follow patients who choose to participate for up to 90 days following discharge from Harborview’s inpatient psychiatry units. These Peer Bridgers work alongside the inpatient social work team and community providers to help “bridge” services from inpatient to outpatient settings. Thanks to a generous donation from the Hoveida Family Foundation, we are able to hire two additional Peer Bridgers who will connect with patients from the beginning of care, right in the Psychiatric Emergency Department. This expansion will allow patients to connect with peer support earlier, so that Peer Bridgers can act as advocates for patients and liaisons with clinical staff from the start. We believe introducing this support earlier in the patient experience will increase the success rate of patients resulting in increased engagement with outpatient services, decreased rates of rehospitalization and an increase in available crisis services in our region. We are thankful for the Hoveida Family Foundation’s support of this immediate, proven intervention that will make an important difference in the lives of many in our region.

Thank you to Topher Jerome and Susan McLaughlin from the Behavioral Health Institute for their help with managing the launch of this project; PES Representatives Paul Borghesani, Nick Escobar, and Rachelle White; Data Collection and Analysis help from Imara West, Emily Brown, and Kelly Bui; and hiring, recruitment, training, and supervision help from Owen Riley, Eric King and Topher Jerome.