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SC Mobile Crisis expands to include peer support

 mental health

Mental health has become a much-discussed topic in recent years. Those experiencing a mental health crisis often need someone who understands and has been where they are. A grant to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health aims to do just that.

The funds will expand SC Mobile Crisis to include peer support in 10 counties. SC Mobile Crisis is a hotline that assists those in South Carolina experiencing a mental health crisis.

SC Mobile Crisis Director Stacee Rowell says, "If it is deemed a crisis call, then the call is transferred to our mobile crisis teams, and they provide services either telephonically so where they resolve the crisis over the phone, maybe they safety plan, provides resources, or we can go on site to the location of the crisis."

The partnership will work by adding peer support specialists to assist mobile crisis staff. Aaron Brown is the executive director at SC SHARE, an organization that certifies peer specialists. He says, "peer support specialists are people with lived experience" who "identify as in some type of recovery either from substance use or alcohol use disorder or a mental illness."

Peer support specialists will accompany clinicians when responding to a crisis call which Brown thinks is important. He says, "There's a disconnect between a person in crisis and the people responding to that crisis."

Brown believes peer specialists are better able to connect with those in crisis. He says peers, "can not only put themselves in the position of the clinician or whoever is responding to that crisis but also put themselves in the position of the person in crisis. That's the important piece. It's communication between the two to come to a peaceful resolution or to come to a productive outcome."

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration shows that peer support is effective in helping those in crisis. According to Rowell, "it decreases hospitalizations, it decreases the likelihood that they'll have to reengage in emergency services." She also says having a peer support specialist "builds resilience for that person who's in crisis."

Aiken, Anderson, and Chesterfield are three counties included in the partnership. The Department of Mental Health chose these counties because they have the highest suicide rates in South Carolina. According to Rowell, the other seven counties were selected because they face several health disparities due to their rural location.

However, Rowell hopes that the partnership will continue. She wants to see peer support expand to all mental health centers in South Carolina and become the new normal for SC Mobile Crisis. Rowell says there is funding to cover training costs for those interested in becoming a peer support specialist for the counties included in the grant. She encourages anyone interested to email her at stacee.rowell@scdmh.org.

For those looking to become a peer support specialist in counties not included in the grant, you can contact Brown at www.scshare.com.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis and are in the state, you can call SC Mobile Crisis. Their number is (833) 364-2274.

Jada Kirkland was an ETV Endowment 2023 Summer Intern working with South Carolina Public Radio May-August 2023. She is a rising senior broadcast journalism major in the University of South Carolina Honors College and a native of Sumter. In school, Jada has served as vice president of the National Association of Black Journalists and a mentor for first-year students. During her free time, Jada enjoys writing poetry and taking photos.