The development and implementation of a peer support model for a specialist mental health service for older people: lessons learned

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Journal Article
Mental Health Review Journal, 2018, 23 (2), pp. 73 - 85
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© 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: There has been a significant growth in the employment of peer workers over the past decade in youth and adult mental health settings. Peer work in mental health services for older people is less developed, and there are no existing peer work models for specialist mental health services for older people in Australia. The authors developed and implemented a peer work model for older consumers and carers of a specialist mental health service. The purpose of this paper is to describe the model, outline the implementation barriers experienced and lesson learned and comment on the acceptability of the model from the perspective of stakeholders. Design/methodology/approach: To ensure the development of the peer work model met the needs of key stakeholders, the authors adopted an evaluation process that occurred alongside the development of the model, informed by action research principles. To identify stakeholder preferences, implementation barriers and potential solutions, and gain insight into the acceptability and perceived effectiveness of the model, a range of methods were used, including focus groups with the peer workers, clinicians and steering committee, consumer and carer surveys, field notes and examination of project documentation. Findings: While the model was overall well received by stakeholders, the authors experienced a range of challenges and implementation barriers, in particular around governance, integrating the model into existing systems, and initial resistance to peer work from clinical staff. Originality/value: Older peer workers provide a valuable contribution to the mental health sector through the unique combination of lived experience and ageing. The authors recommend that models of care are developed prior to implementation so that there is clarity around governance, management, reporting lines and management of confidentiality issues.
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