Q & A With Peer Workers

MHAAO Staff Speak Out About Their Work and Recovery

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Q1: In what ways can peer support bring about a greater sense of healing than say a clinical treatment or intervention? 

“I believe that, while clinical treatment or intervention may be one element of healing, peer support lends multiple sustainable practices and whole-life healing in its approach. People tend to thrive when they are connected, and peer support is rooted in connection. Peer Wellness Specialists have lived experience and therefore greater insight to the complexities of what being a mental health care consumer really entails.” 

Kristin Griffey, Peer Support Specialist for Washington County CHOICE Model Team 

Q2: What personal practices do you do to support your recovery?

“I write Inspirational, hip-hop, and gospel poetry.  The role poetry plays in my recovery is it gives me a outlet to appreciate my humble beginnings and the work of recovery via verbal and/or written expression.” 

Bryan Corley, Peer Support Specialist for Join 

Q3: How important is autonomy in one's recovery? 

“Autonomy is really important for recovery, as it gives us the power to choose how we want to grow and heal.  When we are able to create a plan that meets our needs and wants, we are more willing and put forth energy into recovery, which helps us to persevere through the struggle. Autonomy lets us go at our pace and follow our own path whatever that looks like. People are not always ready for change, so it is about loving and accepting people right where they are.”

Michelle Markus, Peer Support Specialist for the Choice Program 

Q4: If you could pick one situation/moment in your role as a peer support specialist that has given you the greatest sense of fulfillment what would that be?

“I had a Peer whose family lived on the East Coast who wanted to return home after a long time of not speaking to his family. After a year in Mental Health Court, he graduated and the court bought him a plane ticket home. I was able to escort him to the airport and wish him well as he left to go back home and join his family.” 

Bill Beall, Peer Support Specialist for Multnomah County Forensic Diversion 

Q5: What are three things that you're grateful for in your life today?

A: “Having come from a not so stable family and being raised by mother with alcoholism and no father, I am grateful to have a family and being able to be present for them. I am grateful to be able to identify the trauma of my past and work through the effects it has caused in personal being. I am truly grateful for being in peer support and being able to help people through the process of healing that I so desperately needed way back then.”

Roman Becerra, Peer Support Specialist for Clackamas County

Q6: What words of hope would you express to someone who, like you, was destined to an institutionalized life? 

“I do not believe that anyone needs to feel like they are destined to an institutionalized life. We can all recover and find balance. There is no benefit in swallowing wholesale the pronouncements about our abilities made by others. When it comes to internalizing messages given to us by systems, others, and society at large, it’s best to take what is meaningful and helpful to us and leave the rest.” 

Cee Carver, EVOLVE West Department Director 

Q7: What has given you the greatest sense of fulfillment in your roles? 

“The greatest sense of achievement is seeing the life come back to someone who came in dead. Seeing them succeed, giving them a feeling of awe, there's no other feeling that can compare.”

Roumaldo Guajardo, Washington County Jail Peer Mentor 

Q8: What are you most passionate about in your life in recovery? 

“My biggest passion today in my life of recovery is the work I do in recovery advocacy and change. In the last almost 5 years clean, our community has lost a lot of people to overdose and suicide. This has to stop and I know change can happen. The friends we have lost pushes me even harder to make Oregon a recovery state!”

Jessica Cardinal, Peer Support Specialist for Washington County Juvenile Drug Court 

Q9: How does empathy inform your interactions with peers at MHAAO? 

“I just can’t handle injustice and the people we serve deserve respect and deserve a chance to change. We have the unique ability to provide things most people don’t have. The people who recover and change their lives almost always have someone in their corner showing them the way whether that be family, friends or a community. We get to be all of those things for people and support them in finding their own.”

Kasey Edwards, Specialized Doula and Recovery Mentor for Providence Project Nurture                                                                                                                                                              

Q10: What does holistic recovery look like to you? 

“Holistic recovery to me means recovery that encompasses all of me. I have discovered over the years that while I may share components of my recovery with others, my own needs are often divergent from the "norm." Holistic recovery means that I look at what works and does not work for me specifically. Also, it means that I am not married to any specific path or outcome; I am willing to flex, change and seek out new solutions as it becomes necessary. Holistic recovery looks at all of me, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, environmental, financial, creative, and it pulls tools from all areas as needed.”

Molly Griggs, Peer Support Specialist for Washington County CHOICE Model Team 

Kaity McCraw