For decades, people living with mental health challenges have been gathering together to offer each other mutual support. We may meet in a living room, a coffee shop, at an annual creative arts performance or a dedicated location with daily activities and a staff.
Lives are changed by having a safe space to come and be understood when friends, family and employers may not get it. We encourage each other to develop skills for living well.
Today, peer-run programs are also an evidence-based practice when they follow certain standards. Click here to view an informative presentation from DBHDS about peer-run centers. Major studies have showed that the services found within peer-run programs help individuals to, reduce inpatient hospitalizations, reduce feelings of depression and substance misuse, and increase individual’s feelings of ownership regarding their recovery journey.
There are more than 20 independent peer-run mental health programs in Virginia, of which VOCAL is one. Browse our directory of peer-run programs here. National Empowerment Center has a list of the statewide consumer networks. Peers for Progress has an extensive directory of peer health programs around the world.
By definition, at least a majority of the decision makers at peer-run programs are people with lived experience of mental health challenges. That means at least 51% of the voting Board of Directors identify as peers.
This independent governance structure is core to healthy and effective peer-run programs because it mirrors recovery values of choice, self-direction, empowerment and personal responsibility.
To learn more about peer-run programs in Virginia, or for training and support to start or strengthen a program in your area, contact the VOCAL office: 804.343.1777.