How does the peer specialist balance creating a sense of safety and working towards the best outcomes for all when other members of the team will make the final decisions about involuntary treatment, including that if they are placed on an involuntary hold or arrested they may be handcuffed?

The peer specialist is able to talk to the individual and explain the process. They can verbally walk the person through the process, preparing them for a process that can be very frightening, especially if the individual doesn’t know what to expect. If the specialist has experienced similar situations they can explain the process in a step by step manner relating their own reactions. If allowed by law enforcement they can stand next to the person throughout the process to calm their fears. Plunging into unknown situations is far more frightening than knowing what is coming.They are also there to advocate on the persons behalf for the most advantageous outcomes. Their presence can also have a calming effect on law enforcement and other mobile crisis team members.

It is important that the peer specialist not overstep their authority by interfering with law enforcement or second guessing the clinical staff that will make the decision about involuntary treatment, but they can make a case quietly that, if allowed by law, handcuffs may not be necessary. They can also suggest alternatives to the clinician, perhaps transporting the person to a respite facility,a homeless shelter or by calling a relative or loved one, if appropriate.

The key is that the peer is there “for the person” and their presence and assistance in helping the person to know what will be occurring is highly beneficial.

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