Our Storytellers: Our story through the eyes of our employees
Susan Wagner, Coordinator of Adult Outpatient Peer Specialists
How long have you been with Jefferson Center and what was it like then?
I’ve been with Jefferson Center for 11 years. At this time Peer Specialists had been at Jefferson Center for about 9 years. We were beginning a new program for the Adult Outpatient team. There were about five peer specialists back then in this program. We didn’t even have our own offices. We would find a conference room to park ourselves in or wander the halls if there wasn’t a room available.
What is a peer specialist?
A peer specialist is someone who uses their own lived experience of having a mental illness and they use it to support clients and create hope. We are trained with a lot of skills to work with clients on a peer-to-peer basis. So it’s more of a mutual relationship. We are definitely staff so it’s not like a friendship but it is fundamentally for a limited period of time. We typically meet our clients in the community as our goal is to help them become involved for a meaningful, happy and healthy life.
What has changed since you started?
Jefferson Center has grown and so has the peer specialist program. Now we have 10 peer specialists but we’ve had as many as 15 in our program. On a Center-wide basis, we have over 20 Peer Specialists. Over the last 5 years, peer specialists became state certified. We’re involved in more initiatives such as Zero Suicide and Trauma Informed Care. We have one peer specialists that are very involved in advocacy. This job has done wonders for my own recovery. Because you’re working in recovery and you’re working with clients who are recovering, it makes you feel more hopeful.