Certified Peer Specialists continue to offer services to their peers during the COVID-19 pandemic. While CPS' are very familiar with offering support to their peers during a difficult emotional time or to support a peer living with mental health symptoms, providing support during an historic pandemic was not an event our CPS' were prepared for.
However, SCIs across the state have been innovative in allowing this important program to continue while maintaining fidelity to the purpose of what a CPS does.
Although many CPS' only have been able to provide services on their units, they have stepped up to the challenge and offered support whenever needed to their fellow peers, even at a time when they too are experiencing the impact of isolation. As one CPS said, "I'm currently housed with 60 inmates on an open-dorm setting, and they all have things going on within themselves. I'm not exempt from having my own ups and downs, and I myself have to go to a CPS for hope and encouragement. The main thing I give to anyone struggling is hope and to let them know they are not alone and that we are in this together. I am hopeful things will go back to normal… the guys need us."
Another CPS said, "I'll continue to do what I'm doing, even more if it's asked of me. I take the initiative to talk to anyone on my unit and express empathy and care every time I talk to them. This makes me feel better."
One CPS on SCI Waymart's Personal Care Unit said, "Although I am worried, I still talk to my peers and motivate them and try to help them understand what the pandemic is and just talk to help people feel calm. I feel ok because staff are doing an excellent job in cleaning and keeping us safe during this pandemic."
One individual receiving CPS services said, "CPS' are especially helpful during COVID. Our CPS never turns anyone down who needs help. He shares himself with us".
CPS supervisors across Pennsylvania also deserve recognition as they are taking added steps in ensuring CPS' have access to continuing educational courses by using in-cell assignments and alternative ways of providing training which is critical in maintaining the official CPS certification and keeping the program alive.