Hôpital Montfort in Ottawa is a Francophone teaching hospital which delivers health care services in both official languages in the Champlain region. Ranked among the 30 best employers in the National Capital Region in 2015, Hôpital Montfort has an excellent Mental Health Program which offers a patient-centred, interdisciplinary approach to specialized care. With more than 600 admissions a year, the Mental Health Program, or MHP, operates in three areas committed to providing quality care: in-patient services, out-patient services, and community services.

We know that people often turn to a hospital when they are struggling with a mental health or substance abuse crisis. Our analyses of consultations with consumers and their family members—initiated by the Champlain region’s mental health and addictions system and other mental health planning exercises—pointed to the importance of providing peer support for patients and their families, based on on-site, mutual support models used in other sectors (e.g., cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes). People living with or who have lived with mental health and/or substance abuse issues, as well as their families and friends, can better understand and relate to others who are in recovery from their own mental health and/or substance abuse challenges as well as their families and friends. Peer supporters bring a unique perspective to their work with these individuals when they provide role modeling, listen, facilitate access to other peer-driven services, and help link them to peers who can support them in their transition to the community upon discharge from hospital.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (2010) recognizes that a well-rounded and increasing amount of research evidence connects peer initiatives, especially peer support, to:
• reduced mental health hospital stays
• lessened “symptomatic” distress
• better social support
• increased quality of life (CMHA Ontario et al., 2005)

For this reason, the MHP at Hôpital Montfort teamed up with Psychiatric Survivors of Ottawa to deliver peer support services. The two partners were subsequently joined by Queensway Carleton Hospital, which opted to implement the peer support initiative in its own mental health unit. These services are delivered under the Recovery Connections/Liens de rétablissement program, a pilot project funded by the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), which also includes a call-back service available post-discharge. The peer support pilot project began in September 2013, and was officially launched on April 3, 2014.

Peer support providers offer non-clinical one-to-one and group support which is complementary to the clinical services delivered by hospital staff.
• Peer supporters act as a liaison for clients of the hospital’s mental health or substance abuse services.
• Family peer supporters act as liaisons for the family members of clients at the hospital’s mental health or substance abuse services.

Both types of peer supporters work as a team with the hospital staff. They have all experienced the mental health system and are there to “walk the path of recovery” and offer supportive listening. They provide practical advice and emotional support to consumers and their families. Peer supporters do not make decisions about patient care or discuss treatment options, but they encourage a self-help approach to recovery and treatment planning, an approach emphasized during the training and orientation process.

The peer support service fits within the framework of the logic model adopted recently by the Mental Health Program at Hôpital Montfort. The primary goal of the logic model is to provide a clear vision shared by all members of the Mental Health Program team and its partners (both internal and external; e.g., Psychiatric Survivors) with regard to the short-, medium-, and long-term outcomes and the actions required to achieve these outcomes. The logic model is also intended to strengthen the cohesion of the mental health team and increase the team members’ commitment to its activities.

Contact Person:

Title: Director, clinical services

Contact information: asalvador@montfort.on.ca

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