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Press Releases

NYC Health + Hospitals Celebrates Its Peer Academy’s First Year

The Peer Academy trains peer counselors, who use their lived experience with substance use or mental health conditions to engage patients

NYC Health + Hospitals has the largest hospital-based peer workforce in the city

Dec 15, 2022

NYC Health + Hospitals today announced a successful first year of its Peer Academy, a training program for people who have lived experience with mental health or substance use conditions to become peer counselors. In the first class this spring, students ranged in age from their 20s to their 60s, with an average age of 43. Twelve of the 18 graduates in the first class have been hired as peer counselors at NYC Health + Hospitals. Twenty additional students graduate from the program today. NYC Health + Hospitals currently has 83 peers on staff across the system, the largest hospital-based peer workforce in the city. In addition to the classroom hours required for State certification, the program includes a 2-month, full-time hospital-based internship with rotations in the inpatient mental health unit, emergency department, and street outreach teams. Peer Academy staff work with interns to help them find employment for up to six months after graduation.

“Peers have an extraordinary ability to connect with patients and help them pursue treatment,” said Charles Barron, MD, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Office of Behavioral Health, NYC Health + Hospitals. “That’s essential in a hospital, where we serve patients with the highest needs for mental health and substance use care. NYC Health + Hospitals is proud to invest in this critical workforce to deliver compassionate and effective care for our patients.”

“The Peer Academy gave me this incredible opportunity to inspire and support others who are suffering from addiction, so they don’t have to go through it alone,” said Jack Chudasama, a student in the first cohort of the Peer Academy who is now a Peer Counselor at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst. “For 30 years, I battled addiction, so being a peer counselor is good for my own recovery, too. It grounds me and gives me a strong sense of purpose.”

“For years, I saw a psychiatrist and a therapist, but when I started working with a peer counselor and going to a peer support group, I had a breakthrough,” said Brian Pelzer, who receives services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull. “You’re with other people who have similar problems, and you realize there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I reconnected with my family, and I learned techniques that help me in my day to day life. Now I go to my peer group every week, and it’s a part of my recovery.”

The Peer Academy includes the hours needed for the State certifications to become a Certified Peer Specialist for mental health and a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate for substance use. It includes over 20 hours of online workshops, 177 hours of classroom training, and 126 hours at a hospital-based internship.

Contact: pressoffice@nychhc.org; 212.788.3339

About NYC Health + Hospitals
NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest municipal health care system in the nation. We are a network of 11 hospitals, trauma centers, neighborhood health centers, nursing homes, and post-acute care centers. We are a home care agency and a health plan, MetroPlus. Our health system provides essential services to more than one million New Yorkers every year in more than 70 locations across the city’s five boroughs. Our diverse workforce of more than 43,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. Visit us at www.nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NYCHealthSystem or Twitter at @NYCHealthSystem.