TREASURE COAST – New Horizons Mental Health, Primary Care and Substance Abuse of Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee counties recently hosted a Whole Health Action Management (WHAM) training program to certify peer specialists in best practices for achieving whole health.

Peer specialists are employees supervised by medical professionals who share their own personal experiences working through mental illness, substance abuse, and chronic physical and behavioral conditions to support clients who are facing similar issues.

The training teaches skills to help clients self-manage their behavior to reach optimum mental, physical, emotional, and social health.

Research indicates peer support has considerable impact on healthy living. For instance, a Stanford Medical School study on breast cancer found that women who engaged in weekly peer support groups on average lived twice as long as women who did not.

The WHAM training helps peers identify unhealthy habits that negatively impact a client’s overall health and develop an action plan to change those habits while attending support groups.

In addition, peers assist clients in identifying strengths, interests and likes with which to replace unhealthy habits. The support group provides encouragement and community.

One in five children and adults struggle with mental illness and substance abuse. New Horizons staff guides them to achieve whole health so they can become productive members of society who have quality of life.

In addition to inpatient and outpatient mental health programs, New Horizons also offers primary care to clients and the community to improve physical health. Services include diagnosis and treatment, diabetes monitoring, smoking cessation, weight management and more.

The average life span of a person dealing with mental illness is 25 years less than the general population, due mostly to neglect of their physical health. Thus, the primary care clinic at New Horizons is an essential component in building a healthier community.

Photo: New Horizons Peer Specialist April Moccia, Primary Care Clinic Program Director William Joyce, PA, and Peer Specialist Beth Mattice receive Whole Health Action Management training certification.

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