SPIRIT, SNMH team up for mental health care | TheUnion.com

SPIRIT, SNMH team up for mental health care

In a new program beginning in early 2013, trained peer counselors from SPIRIT Peer Empowerment Center will offer direct, immediate support to people in mental health crisis at the Emergency Department of Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.

The pilot program will place trained peer counselors at the hospital emergency department, working with the Crisis Team from Nevada County Behavioral Health, in coordination with the hospital. Crisis Peers will be available on call daily from 4-10 p.m. Peer counselors will also provide follow up phone calls to assist people as they connect with community services and hope to avoid a repeat visit.

The pilot program, funded by the California state Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), gained final approval by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 11, after an extended process of review by a variety of community groups.

To hire and train crisis peer counselors, SPIRIT Center will be interviewing in early January. Applicants must have training as a peer counselor; that training does not need to have been at SPIRIT Center. Potential applicants are asked to send a letter of intent to SPIRIT Center, 276 Gates Place, Grass Valley, CA 95945.

Peer counselors are people who have been dealing with their own emotional issues, are in recovery, and are trained to support others.

Opened in 2003 as a free, drop in peer counseling center, SPIRIT Center is a non profit 501©3. Since 2005, its basic services have been funded by MHSA.

SPIRIT peer counselors offer free individual counseling at SPIRIT Center daily, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; they also provide a variety of support groups, trainings, and social activities. Many peer counselors work on a volunteer basis. Services are free and open to the public.

The number of people in mental health crisis in western Nevada County has jumped dramatically in recent years. Ben Lopez, director of the Nevada County Behavioral Health Crisis Team, reports over 1,000 crisis contacts in the last year. Lopez and his team are working with SPIRIT Center staff to develop a crisis training for the new peer counselors.

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