I spent some time this afternoon, my first day of learning in Newcastle, talking to someone who works as a Navigator with the Fulfilling Lives program. He explained that when someone is referred to a Navigator, they meet up in the community and help them access and connect with community services that might be beneficial. He told me about his efforts to connect with someone for over 3 months and he was finally able to meet with him face to face. When he did meet with him for the first time, it was really helpful in establishing trust by relying on his first-hand knowledge of some of the difficult life experiences that people like him were going through.
There are times when something is said that isn’t exactly new information – you may have heard it before or even given it some thought in the past – but for some reason in that moment it resonates with you differently and/or new possibilities seem to open up upon hearing it. That’s what happened when the Navigator with Fulfilling Lives said, “That’s what people with lived experience are good at – the engagement piece.” In that moment, my thoughts went first to the Peer Specialist who works at the Terry Reilly Boise clinic and how his position as a peer, and not as a professional, enables him to engage with people on a different level. I’ve known Matt was good at connecting with people because I’ve seen him do it again and again, with his co-workers and with peers; the challenge has been creating opportunities within the clinic for his engagement skills to shine. I also thought about the wider Boise community’s goals behind implementing Coordinated Entry and Housing First to connect with, house and provide support to the most vulnerable. In many instances these individuals aren’t currently accessing available services for a variety of reasons; people who in some cases have burned bridges, or have “multiple, complex needs” which is a common phrase used here in the U.K to describe them. I also thought about the PATH program in Boise which currently has Peers working in a similar way to the Navigators with Fulfilling Lives. One difference in the tow programs is the Navigators in the U.K are embedded in and part of different partner agencies while still working as part of the Fulfilling Lives program; which means they have the support to access services and identify barriers within the larger system in a unique way. I also thought about the Peer Wellness Center which is peer directed and has had great success in engaging peers at all stages of recovery.
In summary, all of this had me thinking about possible collaborations between agencies who already employ peers for this very important engagement piece at which peers are uniquely skilled, in particular when it comes to people with multiple, complex needs. As this is only day one, I’m looking forward to learning more about all aspects of Fulfilling Lives program in the days to come.