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LEAP Launches Formal Peer Support Program

Posted November 21, 2013 in LEAP in the News

LEAP Launches Formal Peer Support Program

When people who have faced similar life experiences and problems meet, a sense of trust often develops very quickly. Connecting with someone who’s “been in your shoes” is one of the most powerful of human bonds. Harnessing the power of these connections to help consumers reach their employment and independent living goals is the purpose of LEAP’s new peer-support program.

The group will be facilitated by three LEAP staff members, all of whom have a disability: Melissa Hernandez and Lori Kneisel, both of whom are independent living specialists, and Donna Prease, grassroots advocate. Meetings are held once a month in each LEAP office. A referral from one of LEAP’s primary service providers is required for participation.

Initial funding for the program has been provided by the Eva L. and Joseph M. Bruening Foundation, the Community West Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Lorain County.

Peer mentors will work closely with each participant’s primary service provider to ensure coordinated and holistic provision of services.

“I look forward to helping consumers recognize their strengths, utilize their abilities, and develop behaviors and skills so they can reach their goals,” said Hernandez. “Between us, we mentors have a variety of abilities, resources, knowledge, and experience that will allow us to address the needs of consumers.”

“My hope for this program is that it will help empower our consumers to believe that they can and do make a difference. Their voice counts and needs to be heard,” Kneisel added.

In preparation for the program, the three peer mentors have undertaken extensive training together, which will help them function as a team.

“It’s great to be able to bounce ideas off one another,” said Prease. “We’ve gotten to know one another so much better through our training, and we have so much respect for one another. We make great team.”