Peer Support in the Emergency Department: Supporting transitional aged youth

For many young people experiencing mental health or substance use concerns, emergency departments (EDs) are often a first point of contact when seeking health care. While EDs address the urgent needs of young people, they are not equipped to provide long-term mental health support. Responding to an increase in youth visiting EDs, Mount Sinai Hospital implemented the RBC Pathway to Peers (P2P) program, an innovative model of care developed in partnership with Stella’s Place. Our program offers rapid access to mental health services leveraging the expertise of trained peer support workers who have lived experience with mental illness. These peers are integrated into the ED clinical care team and provide support to youth through active listening, sharing coping strategies, and providing relevant community referrals. We will share our journey launching a Peer Support program within a healthcare institution, and explore how we can continue to support the young adult population.

Presenters and slide deck

Mahalia Dixon, Peer Support Worker, Mount Sinai Hospital

Mahalia Dixon (she/they) is currently a Peer Support Worker in Mount Sinai Hospital’s Emergency Department, and has been since the program’s launch in May 2020. Mahalia has been working as peer, facilitator, and advocate within the youth mental health and substance use sector since her own teen years, and having navigated the sector as a client, volunteer, and service provider, is passionate about providing holistic support to young people through a non-judgement, inclusive, and empowering practice.

Yolanda Delmonte, Peer Support Worker, Mount Sinai Hospital

Yolanda Delmonte (she/her) is the second Peer Support Worker to join the RBC Pathway to Peers team in September 2020. She joined the team with educational experience in Sociology and Criminology at U of T, most recently graduating from the Social Service Worker program at George Brown College. She has also supported homeless adults with mental health and substance use concerns at St Felix Centre. Through the lens of her own lived experience, she provides support to young people with the aim to have them feel safe, empowered and connected.

Christine Bradshaw, Pathway to Peers, Program Manager, Mount Sinai Hospital

Christine Bradshaw (she/her) is a Social Worker at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Emergency Department and Manager of the RBC Pathway to Peers Support Program. Christine was seconded for this position and has been involved in the creation and implementation of the program at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Emergency Department. Christine is involved in many awareness raising initiatives around the hospital and is motivated to make a difference in the lives of young adult patients by exploring creative relationships with internal and external partners.

Allison Dunning, Peer Initiatives Manager, Stella’s Place

Allison Dunning (she/her) is the Peer Initiatives Manager at Stella's Place, and a Certified Peer Support Mentor with Peer Support Canada.  Allison has extensive experience in planning, delivering, evaluating and overseeing the operations of Peer Support programs in community, private and hospital based settings.  Allison loves working with stakeholders to figure out what the need is, and how Peer Support services may be able to help meet that need, and dedicates her time to collaborating with Peer Support Workers to work through the challenges that come up when working alongside staff from various disciplines, and how to navigate the scope of the role in different settings.


Key Learnings

  • Effectively support young people the first and every time they are seeking help with complimenting ED care through Peer Support
  • Create peer-led/youth-specific mental health and substance use ED supports
  • Reduce barriers to youth accessing mental health and substance use supports

Thoughts from those with Lived/Living Expertise

What are some of the highlights?

  • Implementation of peer support services in emergency department settings is impactful.
  • Presenters discussed the implementation approach and supervision of peer supporters, including the importance of extensive and appropriate training.

How can information gained be used? 

  • To help service providers learn more about implementing youth peer support services in health care settings. 
  • Findings could be adapted to different settings, such as justice-legal settings, secondary and post-secondary settings and employment settings.

What are the implications?

  • This information can be used to improve implementation of peer support services and supervision, as it adds new findings to the studies of peer supports in child and youth mental health settings. 
  • Findings can help inform funders and ministries on the importance and need for peer support services.

What would you like to know more about?

  • More information on the performance measurement side of managing peer supporters and service users' feedback.

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