Mental Health & Addictions Peer Navigators Taking Care of the Whole Person

September 8, 2023

In 2014, NYGH and the Krasman Centre — an organization that supports people with mental health, substance use and housing challenges — launched a Peer Navigator Program. As it approaches its 10th year, the program continues to help many people who are struggling.

“The Peer Navigator program began as a pilot project and was so successful that we decided to make it permanent,” says Sandy Marangos, Director of Mental Health at NYGH.

“Partnering with the Krasman Centre has been so beneficial because their peer support approach showed we were underestimating lived experiences in our patients’ recovery.”

Peer Navigator Murat Guler believes that his role helps fill an important gap by building trusted, empathetic relationships and offering a holistic approach to care. “I encourage peers to examine other areas of their lives that may help in their recovery such as nurturing healthy family relationships or discovering new hobbies,” says Murat.

Every interaction with a peer is unique and requires different support.

Adam Macleod, a Peer Navigator with the Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic at NYGH, recalls taking an urgent phone call from a peer who was contemplating suicide.

“I can draw from my own personal experience to relate with others. In this situation, I spent time listening to this person’s fears with no judgement and validating how they were feeling. While it was necessary to involve emergency services, I was with the peer throughout, ensuring they were supported and listened to, that their dignity was maintained, and that they were always aware of their right to be involved in their own care,” says Macleod.

Since the program was established, Peer Navigators have supported more than 20,000 peers.

“The priority is improving people’s experiences,” says Susan Dobson, Executive Director of the Krasman Centre. “Each peer should be seen, heard, and feel empowered with the information and resources needed for their recovery journey.”

The story was originally published in the Year in Review 2022-2023, People First report.