Peer Specialists help those dealing with mental illness - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Peer Specialists help those dealing with mental illness

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You can learn more about mental health in an upcoming educational session. Jean Sterling, National Alliance on Mental Illness, La Crosse County, Board of Directors President, discussed the upcoming NAMI Educational Session. It is free to the public on Tuesday, April 17th at 7:00 First Congregational Church 2503 Main Street, La Crosse WI 54601.

There will be a Peer Specialist Panel. According to Sterling, Peer Specialists are a growing part of the service delivery landscape in Wisconsin and across the country. A Peer Specialist is a person who has not only lived the experience of mental illness, but also has had formal training in the peer specialist model of mental health and substance use supports.

They use their unique set of recovery experiences in combination with solid skills training to support peers who have mental illness and/or substance use challenges. While Peer Support has a long history, Wisconsin joined the list of states who certify Peer Specialists in 2010 (and will soon be certifying Parent Peer Specialists) in recognition of how this unique blend of experience and skills can enrich the work force and lead to enhanced consumer outcomes. Wisconsin has approximately 500 certified Peer Specialists, and a significant number are currently working in La Crosse County in many different capacities.

A panel of five (5) Peer Specialists with different roles who work in La Crosse County will share a bit about what led them to choosing to do this type of work, and talk about what they are doing today as part of the workforce in the community to help individuals facing challenges with mental health and/or substance use.

Panel members include: Erica Moutsopoulos (Independent Living Resources, Inc. - RAVE Drop-in Center), Nick Piojda (Tellurian, Inc. -CARE Center crisis diversion facility), Katie Kress (Independent Living Resources, Inc. - state-wide coordinator for Peer run drop-in centers), Kimberly Richards-Marquez (Family & Children's Center - Community Support Program, and Sara Honadel (Independent Living Resources, Inc. -works with youth).

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