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Peer Support Specialists: Supporting Recovery
The Recovery Model that has gained widespread acceptance in the behavioral health field is based on empowerment. This model starts with the consumer and their right to choose their own path. It focuses on the development of new meaning and purpose in life as an individual is encouraged to grow beyond the problems that brought them into treatment.

The traditional Medical Model of mental health treatment is symptom/treatment based; the guiding principles are often focused on stabilization, maintenance, and relapse prevention.

Contrast this with the newer Recovery Model where the emphasis is on health and wellness rather than finding 'answers' and quick fixes. Consumers already know their symptoms. If an individual has been in treatment, they've learned what their triggers are and how to handle them. What needs to be taught is ways of coping with a mental illness that are effective and help the consumer become part of the fabric of the community.

A holistic approach to service planning is used in Recovery. Treatment plans need to incorporate all the choices available to the consumer with the information needed to clarify these options and make decisions. In Recovery, treatment becomes a partnership with the consumer and is based on the strengths, needs, preferences, and desires of the consumer.

Decision making is viewed as a shared responsibility with the consumer. It is "hope, choices, and opportunity," according to a Peer Specialist working with the ReDCo Group who emphasizes with consumers that "there is no end's all about the journey."

This Recovery journey involves change — change in attitude, values, skills, and goals. Change not only for the consumer, but also for the provider staff. The provider learns to see the consumer as more than their diagnosis when the approach to treatment is respectful and collaborative. In Recovery, relationships are formed that are affirming, supportive, and encouraging.

A Peer Support Specialist can be of great benefit to the consumer in the Recovery Model. Peer Specialists are individuals who are self-identified as having a mental illness. They have completed training through a certification process with the PA Department of Public Welfare and are taught how to help their peers identify and achieve specific self-determined goals. The service must be recommended by a physician and is incorporated in a person's treatment plan. The consumer must be 18 year of age or older and have a severe and persistent mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders.

In Recovery, working with someone who knows what you are experiencing can be very meaningful. Peer Support Services offer positive, personal interaction with a relatable individual who is "walking the walk" and modeling the principles of the Recovery Model.

The Peer Specialist shares with the consumer their knowledge of available services in the area and teaches them how to effectively communicate with service providers. They teach decision-making skills and how to make use of "natural" and informal supports, they offer alternatives to more restrictive means of coping with symptoms and help avert psychiatric hospitalizations.

The ReDCo Group has 3 Peer Specialists at this time. They are each assigned a caseload and meet for supervision on a regular basis. The energy these 3 employees bring to their work is contagious. Consumers cannot help but feel strengthened by their caring concern.

Recently, a consumer expressed severe anxiety over her living arrangements. She was very unhappy with the location and accessibility of her apartment but was unsure of what to do about the situation. A Peer Specialist was able to suggest some options to consider and assured the consumer that they would help her work the problem through. As they made plans to get together, the relief the consumer experienced was obvious.

A Peer Specialist becomes a friend to the consumer — one who knows where they are coming from because they've been there too. They are ready and able to help guide the consumer through difficult times and are there to celebrate the good times.

Most importantly, the Peer Specialist helps the consumer find — and use — their voice so they can become their own advocate. They offer the consumer the comfort of knowing that they are not alone — and they offer hope for a satisfying and meaningful future.

Labels Can Be Hurtful
When Rosa Marcellino was 9 years old, she was identified as “mentally retarded” by the Maryland educational system. Her mother, Nina, and older siblings objected strongly and decided to voice their opinion. They wrote a petition that they circulated around their schools. Nina Marcellino appealed to her Maryland state representatives to change the hurtful label in Maryland law and to sponsor similar legislation in the federal government.

Michelle Ambrose supervises the ReDCo Group’s Home and Community Program that provides in-home services for intellectually disabled clients. She has worked with these consumers for 30 years and says “clients never use the term ‘mentally retarded’. They know they need help with things and are different, but they are just people like everyone else.”

The timing was right for the change. There has been a movement among the intellectually disabled population to strike the offensive term from existence. When groups, such as Special Olympics, joined the refrain some attention was finally paid.

On October 5, 2010 President Barack O’Bama signed “Rosa’s Law”, a bill that eliminates the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from the federal law books.

The term ‘mentally retarded’ came into popular use in the 1950’s to describe the intellectually challenged. It has been used by special education teachers and developmental service providers for years. Over time, the ‘mentally retarded’ label has come to hold a stereotypically negative connotation that shapes how someone feels about themselves. It also determines how people are viewed and treated by others.

The ReDCo Group is moving forward in changing this label that has become demeaning to some members of our communities. Change takes time but must begin somewhere. We are all encouraged to lead the way and change the label “mentally retarded” to intellectually disabled.

The ReDCo Group operates a network of developmental support services in northeastern PA, from group homes and adult training facilities, to in-home services that help consumers live independently or at home with their families with some assistance . There is a strong commitment to the belief that everyone, no matter what their disability, has hopes and dreams, needs and desires. Creating friendships leads to knowledge and understanding and collaboration with this special population, enriching the lives of all who are connected to the intellectually disabled.

The Doctor Will Teleconference With You Now
The ReDCo Group, a provider of behavioral health services in Northeast PA, has met the challenge of finding psychiatric access for remote clients through the means of telepsychiatry. At sites in Stroudsburg, Milford, and Lehighton, individuals meet privately and confidentially with a board certified psychiatrist via video teleconferencing technology.

Video teleconferencing has been around for about 40 years but the technology’s potential has remained largely untapped. Improvements, such as enhanced resolution of video image and real time audio and visual transmission, have led to simplified used and reduced implementation costs.

According to Trish McAleavy, Vice President of Behavioral Health Services for the ReDCo Group, “we are improving access and quality of care to the most rural counties we serve. It has been a challenge to find a double board certified doctor in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry who is able to reach out to clients in our most remote locations, such as Pike County.”

Before meeting with the psychiatrist, clients will be fully prepared for the experience. They are oriented to the different setting and consent to this new communication concept. Individuals are aided by a therapist who gathers history and physical data which the psychiatrist reviews prior to the appointment. According to McAleavy, children and adolescents were targeted as initial clients for two reasons; first, the need to bring this particular specialty to specific rural areas and second, younger clients are more familiar with, and accepting of, the new technology.

The ReDCo Group’s Behavioral Health Services in Milford, Pike County, sees one of the main benefits of this program as their ability to respond to an individual in need of a psychiatrist more readily and with less effort on the patient’s part.

Outcomes from both the ReDCo Group and nationally have been largely approving– from both the patient and the psychiatrist. A young boy in distress recently moved with his family from another state to Pike County. Through telepsychiatry, the psychiatrist was able to determine that the boy had been misdiagnosed and incorrectly medicated for years. Much to the mother’s relief, the family is seeing positive changes already. The ReDCo Group in Carbon, Monroe, and Pike Counties looks forward to reporting more good news about telepsychiatry as the project continues to serve those traditionally under-served.

POTTSVILLE, Pa. — November 24, 2010 —
The ReDCo Group's Workforce Investment Networks (WIN) division has been awarded the Workforce Investment Act Adult & Dislocated Worker Operator contract for Luzerne County by the Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board, Inc. The ReDCo Group began providing employment related services to the residents of Luzerne County in July, 2010, working out of the PA CareerLink® centers in both Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre. Sharon Angelo, Vice President for Workforce Development Services for the ReDCo Group, explained that both job seekers and employers can receive services through the PA CareerLink®. Job seekers may search for jobs on their own or opt to go through various levels of services, such as core, intensive, and training. Luzerne County employers are encouraged to contact their local PA CareerLink® to learn more about Business Team Services, including job posting, recruitment, and staff assisted services. The ReDCo Group WIN division, with 30+ years of experience, is a major partner in the Luzerne County based PA CareerLink® sites.

Autism Awareness
The ReDCo Group provides services to youth diagnosed with autism throughout the north central region of Pennsylvania as well as the Lehigh Valley. ReDCo's team of professionals includes an array of experienced specialists with training focused on autism spectrum disorders.

The mystery of this disorder, which has become prevalent in our community, is baffling even the most committed medical researchers. Every parent, every grandparent, and young adults who are planning to have children in the future are called upon to become educated on the facts of autism - early intervention is critical to optimize treatment.

Every family, neighbor, educator, and medical professional with knowledge of a child with autism is encouraged to actively advocate for a greater understanding of the disorder by personally learning the facts and sharing information with at least one other person. Start a chain of knowledge - create a greater awareness of autism.

According to, 1 in 150 children is diagnosed with autism; 1 in 94 boys is on the autism spectrum; 67 children are diagnosed per day; a new case is diagnosed almost every 20 minutes; more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes, and cancer combined; autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the United States. Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines.

Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe. Autism spectrum disorders can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 3, although new research is pushing back the age of diagnosis to as early as 6 months. Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child's failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. When a child is diagnosed with autism, early intervention is critical to gain maximum benefit from existing therapies.

For additional information, contact the ReDCo Group Kids Intervention - Developmental Support Services program at 570.429.1529