OCTOBER 17, 2023

VALHALLA, NY: The Mental Health Empowerment Project, Inc. is thrilled to announce the launch of a groundbreaking program, “Lives Forward,” in partnership with the Westchester County Departments of Community Mental Health (DCMH) and Corrections. This unique initiative is set to address the critical shortage of trained para-professionals for mental health and addiction treatment, marking a significant step forward in our collective efforts to support individuals in their journey towards recovery.

In recent years, peer support has emerged as a cornerstone of addiction and mental health recovery. However, there remains a shortage of properly trained and certified peers across various healthcare settings, including hospitals, residential providers, outpatient clinics, and problem-solving courts. Recognizing this pressing need, we are proud to pioneer a first-of-its-kind program that will provide comprehensive training, certification, and ultimately employment opportunities to individuals with mental health and addiction needs while they are incarcerated in the Westchester County Jail.

The “Lives Forward” program is a collaborative effort between the DCMH and Corrections departments, designed to bring both mental health and addiction peer training directly into the jail setting. Through this program, participants will receive training from two separate community providers, leading to dual certification as Peer Specialists by the New York Peer Specialist Certification Board (NYPSCB) and Certified Recovery Peer Advocates (CRPAs) by the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS).

MHEP, in partnership with The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), will provide New York Certified Peer Specialist (NYCPS) certification training, while NCADD will oversee OASAS certification training. This comprehensive program, funded by Westchester’s opioid lawsuit settlement funds, will equip participants with the necessary skills and qualifications to serve as dually credentialed behavioral health peers upon their return to the community.

Moreover, the “Lives Forward” program embodies MHEP’s shared commitment to reducing recidivism and creating hope and gainful employment opportunities for individuals with mental health and addiction needs. By providing tools, opportunities for employment, and support for others, we aim to empower participants to lead fulfilling lives beyond the criminal justice system.

MHEP is deeply grateful for the visionary leadership and support of County Executive George Latimer, Commissioner Michael Orth, Commissioner Joseph Spano, and Deputy Commissioner Joseph A. Glazer in bringing this innovative program to fruition. Together, we believe that “Lives Forward” will not only transform individual lives but also pave the way for similar initiatives across our state and country.