Our mission here at MHA in Delaware is to promote improved mental wellbeing for Delawareans through education, support and advocacy. One of the ways we provide this support is through a peer support program with the mental health court in New Castle County.

The mental health court is available for people who have been charged with crimes because of a behavioral health disorder. For example, a person may incur a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct while experiencing a psychotic break or an active addiction. Rather than punishing this person in a traditional way, the mental health court will mandate treatment for the person as an alternative that they can choose, allowing them to gain skills in coping with their disorder, improve their health, and therefore increase their ability to function successfully in the community.

MHA Delaware supports the mental health court by providing, in partnership with the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, peer support mentors to clients who are moving through the mental health court system.

The Peer Recovery Specialists employed by the Mental Health Association in Delaware are individuals who have experienced behavioral health disorders and are living in recovery from either a mental health disorder, a substance use disorder, or both. They are individuals who have experience as peer specialists and are able to provide help and hope to those involved in the mental health court system, showing them a living, thriving example of what a person in recovery looks like.

Each month, our team provides support to about 40 individuals, working closely with them to support them in remaining engaged in treatment, fulfilling their duties to the court (such as attending probation appointments), and helping them meet their practical needs such as housing, food, and employment. They help with transportation to appointments, mentoring individuals on healthy relationships, connecting individuals to resources in the community, and more.  The peer support specialists also provide Seeking Safety support groups for individuals, many of whom are homeless, that includes both education and peer support.

Our peer support specialists help with employment or volunteerism, connecting or reconnecting with family, building social relationships, engaging in healthy recreational and leisure activities in the community, and utilizing community resources for personal growth. We have found that with the support of peer specialists, clients are able to improve their lives in all of these areas, with the majority of the clients we serve each month making progress in more than one area, graduating the program successfully, and going on to have much lower rates of recidivism than those involved in the traditional court system.

For more information, contact the Director of the Mental Health Court Peer Program, James Cephas, at jcephas@mhainde.org.