The power of peer-led mental health services is at work at Baltic Street AEH in New York City, and is making a real difference. Baltic’s mission is to achieve full social inclusion for all persons living with mental illness. Its integrated network encompasses vocational, educational, social and housing services and reaches thousands of consumers each year—an estimated 12,000 individuals since the program began. Baltic Street, which is affiliated with Pathways to Housing, has exponentially expanded the reach of the most effective tools of well-being and recovery: respect, dignity, and peer-supported choice.
The five Baltic Street Peer Advocacy Centers located in Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx are the first borough-wide, self-help and empowerment programs run by, and for, mental health service recipients. Baltic Street’s netWORKplus employment programs assist individuals to choose, obtain and keep employment that is consistent with each person’s goals and abilities. In the past year, of the 164 consumers who sought employment services, 90% attained productive employment activities and increased their income levels. Eighty-one people (48%) obtained competitive employment; and 74 people (45%) obtained transitional employment. Baltic’s housing program currently houses 86 people in independent scattered site apartments in the Bronx and Brooklyn. The program offers access to housing in neighborhood apartments, allowing individuals to move back into the community without the many difficulties and stigma that often follows such reintegration efforts.
In 2008, Baltic Street was honored with the National Council Award for Excellence in Consumer and Family Advocacy. The National Council Awards of Excellence recognize mental health and addictions treatment providers, like Baltic Street AEH who are implementing innovative and effective programs to serve their communities. Award winners have demonstrated an ability to measure outcomes, translate research into practice, and service to the most vulnerable populations.
“Baltic Street is defining success one person at a time,” said Linda Rosenberg, MSW, president and CEO of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. “Founded upon the heartfelt commitment and skills of their staff, they are transforming individual lives and whole communities with their far-reaching, peer-led service network. We are inspired by their dedication and commitment to recovery.”
In His Own Words
Staff member Stephen Simpson’s own story reflects Baltic Street’s success in supporting the power of every consumer:
“I went through a system that focused on my weaknesses and illness rather than my strengths and health. I went from ward to ward in a state psychiatric facility and thereafter from community residence to community residence. I had a shared apartment that led to independent living in a scatter site supported housing program, finding employment as a peer advocate. I now use my work at Baltic Street to counteract the philosophy that defines people by their weaknesses rather than strengths. Joining other peers who faced the ‘risk of living’ and won, I am a powerful force in giving consumers a vision of themselves. I am committed to Baltic Street’s mission and believe the mental health movement is the most important social movement of our time.”
This article is submitted in honor of the life and work of Rick Sostchen. Baltic Street AEH, Inc. is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York and is actively seeking an Executive Director. Interested applicants please inquire by calling 718-855-5929 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.