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The Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Resident (PEER) program was recently implemented at Silver Creek Terrace in St. Marys. Through the program, eight residents of the facility participated in 10 hours of training conducted two hours at a time over the course of five weeks. A graduation ceremony for these individuals was held in March.
Mary Ann Harrop, one of the PEER residents at the facility and a spokesperson for the group, explained that the idea behind choosing residents to serve as PEERs is that other residents would be more apt to talk to them about issues they may have at the facility.
"That's the whole idea of PEER," Harrop said. "If they have any issues or if any situations arise, they can come to one of us. We try to help them solve it, depending on what it is."
While the PEER members initially try to work together to resolve issues, Harrop noted that if they encounter any difficulties they can contact PEER program Ombudsman Jennifer Bowers, who will then come in and give them ideas.
In addition to problem solving, the group also has the ability to work together to plan activities. Harrop noted that Bowers had told the group about another PEER group at a different facility who puts together welcome bags for new residents, and she indicated that the group at Silver Creek Terrace also has discussed doing something similar.
"She suggested some things like stamps, envelopes, things to just get them started," Harrop said.
Harrop also keeps in touch with Bowers on a regular basis, updating her on how things are going with the PEER group.
She indicated that the PEER members are excited about their new role and look forward to working with their peers at the facility. They also planned to hold a meeting to explain to other residents what the PEER program was all about.
Most importantly though, Harrop stressed that PEER group members are "trained to advocate for residents' rights."