Pilot project goal is to improve treatment and recovery for Tennesseans with mental illness

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The Tennessee Mental Health Consumers' Association (TMHCA) is embarking on a pilot project to enhance treatment provided at the state's mental health institutes. Among the primary goals of the initiative is an increased emphasis on teaching recovery skills to patients as a means to improving their outcomes, reducing the rate of institute readmissions and saving taxpayer money.

Approximately $300,000 in grant funding from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will support a three year Peer Engagement Project at Tennessee's four Regional Mental Health Institutes. Through a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, TMHCA Certified Peer Recovery Specialists will be paired with patients, families and institute staff members to effectively improve treatment and recovery for Tennesseans with mental illness.

"A Peer Recovery Specialist is essentially someone who has been a patient, and has the lived experience that can offer support and guidance to patients and their loved ones navigating the often challenging environment of our mental health institutes," said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. "I am confident this approach will generate beneficial dialogue, and greatly improve outcomes in the long term for everyone concerned."


Tennessee's Mental Health Institutes serve more than 7,000 people annually, individuals who are experiencing some of the most unstable periods in their lives in terms of mental illness. Now patients and family members will have a voice in planning, policies and access to peer support services, with the hope of revolutionizing the recovery process in Tennessee's mental health institutes.

  • The Primary Goals of Tennessee's Peer Engagement Project
  • Teaching patients recovery skills and offering hope
  • Increasing patient access to peer support services
  • Counseling staff who experience trauma on the job
  • Including families and peers on the Board of Trustees
  • Reducing readmissions to save taxpayer money

"It's a pioneering approach, which we hope greatly improves outcomes for patients and cuts down on repeat hospitalizations and readmissions, and reduces a patients' need for crisis services after they return to their home community," said Lisa Ragan, Director of Consumer Affairs and Peer Recovery Services for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. "Peer Recovery Specialists go through a rigorous training program to earn their certification, and I believe will have the opportunity to transform the mental health service system by guiding and supporting patients, family members and even the professional staff by sharing their own personal experiences."


The Certified Peer Recovery Specialists pilot project at Tennessee's Regional Mental Health Institutes is scheduled to get underway October 1, 2015.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is to plan for and promote the availability of a comprehensive array of quality prevention, early intervention, treatment, habilitation and rehabilitation services and supports based on the needs and choices of individuals and families served. For more information, visitwww.tn.gov/mental.

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mental illness, Murfreesboro news, Tennessee, Tennessee mental illness
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