RHD Western Pennsylvania

RHD Allies provides peer support services for adults with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders who are also involved with the criminal justice system. When the pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home order made normal in-person interactions almost impossible, RHD’s certified peer specialists (CPS) had to find new methods to continue supporting program participants through challenging times.

Each day, the CPSs would contact participants by phone or through video conferencing apps such as FaceTime or Zoom. This provided an opportunity to not only catch up with the participants, but also to find out about any needs they may have.

Like many other organizations, one of the largest concerns faced by RHD participants was food insecurity. To help those individuals, a group of CPSs traveled to food distribution locations to pick up food and deliver the items directly to the participants.

Other participants found themselves struggling emotionally with lockdowns and the inability to spend time with their loved ones. The creative CPSs came up with fun ways to add a little excitement to the day, whether by dropping off care packages or challenging participants in an online game.

The CPSs were also available to help with health and safety needs. In one instance, a CPS helped a participant to escape an abusive spouse. The CPS first connected the participant with community resources to locate housing. Once appropriate housing was found, the CPS drove a moving truck (paid for by RHD) to the participant’s home – while physically distancing – so she could pack up her belongings and move to a safer location. Another CPS used RHD’s daily phone calls as an opportunity to continue reaching out to a participant who had been opposed to entering a treatment facility for a substance use disorder. When the participant reached the point where she was ready to enter treatment, the CPS arranged for transportation and found an appropriate facility for her.

No matter what happens with the pandemic over the coming months, RHD’s certified peer specialists will continue to adapt to make sure that “human” is always the most important part of “human services.”