DOC officials recently heard from Miguel Garcia, who is a certified peer specialist (CPS) in the community. He recently wrote the following email to DOC Mental Health Advocate Lynn Patrone:
Thank you for continuing to support the Peer Specialist program and its employees. I wanted you to know that it is with great honor that I can bring the knowledge and skill I obtained while working as a CPS in the PADOC to fruition in society. I will represent my origins as a CPS with the utmost standard of excellence in our practice.
I did get the position after a rigorous hour-long interview with a battery of tests, case scenarios, and mock ITP drafting on a desktop. It is a full-time position with all your standard benefits. All of the positive references I received was a huge contribution. I wish the men and women of the SCIs could know how far good work ethic and positive rapport within the DOC can take you in society.
If you'd like, I'll update you as to the work I will be doing in the community as a CPS, so possibly you will have a model you can present in your presentations as the director to your superiors and subordinates, or at open conventions about how your CPSs from the inside are making a difference in society as well. Just an idea. Let me know your thoughts.
Very truly yours,
Miguel Garcia, CPS
Patrone recently was recipient of an Addiction Policy Forum's Innovation Now award for her work in this area.
The CPS program has been operating in Pennsylvania's corrections system for about eight years, starting with a successful pilot program that was expanded to all facilities. With more than 500 inmates having been trained as CPSs, now there are 20 to 30 CPSs in each facility. The program is working so well, Patrone says their numbers may be increased.
They provide support services to their fellow inmates on different issues, including addiction. Using the peer-to-peer model makes this program similar to sponsorship in other recovery programs. CPSs also seek out other inmates who may need assistance and help them with their short- and long-term recovery goals, plus assist with helping maintain their recovery.
Inmates nominated for the program must have experienced mental illness, addiction or both, and be in recovery. They also must be misconduct-free during their incarceration. Then, participants receive 75 hours of training.
"While we don't capture statistics about reentrants who successfully obtain CPS jobs in the community, we would love to hear from them and encourage them to contact me direct," Patrone said. "Hearing about these successful experiences is proof to our staff and to other inmates that this program has great benefits upon release from prison."
Reentrants who wish to share their post-incarceration success experiences, either in this CPS field or in general, should send an email to email@example.com.