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McKee, Bellamy Receive Grant to Continue Development of Peer Mentor Training Program

January 19, 2022

Two Yale Department of Psychiatry faculty have received a grant from the Elizabeth Dollard Charitable Trust to support continued development of their peer mentor training program for people in recovery from substance use and with lived experience of incarceration.

Sherry McKee, PhD, professor of psychiatry, and Chyrell Bellamy, PhD, MSW, associate professor of psychiatry, direct Formerly Incarcerated Recovery Support Training (FIRST), a peer-led training course for former clients who want to receive training and state certification as a peer support specialist.

These are clients who have successfully completed a federally funded re-entry treatment program directed by McKee (principal investigator) and Bellamy (investigator) and who have expressed a desire to "give back" -- to assist those earlier in the re-entry and recovery process.

The grant will support a paid internship experience for about 40 peer support specialist trainees, all of whom live in the New Haven area. The funding is for two years.

“We are very excited to be able to provide a paid internship experience for our trainees and conduct a formal evaluation of our program with the generous support from the Elizabeth Dollard Charitable Trust,” McKee said. “Our goal is to document that the act of becoming a peer support specialist can have positive outcomes with regard to reduced substance use and recidivism, and increased employment.”

Bellamy said the project is changing lives.

“We know from our previous research that for many people with histories of incarceration and substance use, ‘giving back’ is important to their sense of recovery and wellness,” she said. “The peer support internships will provide the opportunity to practice their new skills, develop new connections, and most importantly, share their recovery journeys with others facing similar life challenges.”

The Dollard trust is a private foundation based in New York that was founded in 1989. It has supported other projects at Yale.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on January 19, 2022