Building Hope peer support program offers connection in a time of isolation
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify some aspects of the program, including how it was started, how it’s funded and how organizers hope the program will spread in addition to Eagle County’s role in the collaboration.
In an effort to promote connection in a time when people are more isolated than ever, Building Hope has a created a new program, which allows Summit County community members to find support from each other.
The Peer Support Program, which launched just before Thanksgiving, connects community volunteers to people who are in need of someone to talk to — about anything.
The nonprofit created the program in response to the community’s struggle with the isolation brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“The peer support model gives people a really great, better opportunity for being successful in day-to-day life and staying in their communities,” Building Hope Director Jen McAtamney said.
The program, which is available for free, is not intended to be a substitute for therapy. Instead it can be a good first step for people who are struggling or just need to talk to someone with a similar lived experience as them.
“Most people who call maybe are just looking to talk to somebody about an in-the-moment frustration they’re experiencing,” said Nicole Maynard, a peer and volunteer coordinator at Building Hope, who helped start the program. “Let’s say somebody is a parent who’s concerned about sending their child back to school … that community member may just want to talk through that sense of fear, frustration, perhaps guilt and those mixed emotions that may be associated with that.”
• Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255 or text “talk” to 38255
• For life-threatening emergencies, call 911
People can access the program by calling its “warm line” — 970-485-6271 — which will connect them to a volunteer who can listen and talk about whatever is going on in the person’s life. The volunteers may then suggest mental health resources that can benefit the person.
Maynard said the line is intended to be a first step and not a crisis line. People who are in a crisis should call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255.
After talking to a volunteer on the warm line, people can enroll in the caring connection program, which pairs the community member with a volunteer who has a similar experience to them. The community member and volunteer will then meet on a regular basis to talk about what’s going on in their lives.
The program currently has six working volunteers and is in the process of training 13 more, Maynard said. The training, which is funded by the Katz Amsterdam Foundation, is extensive and prepares volunteers for any scenario they may come across during the program.
Tamara McClelland, who has been volunteering with Building Hope for about a year, said she decided to sign up for the peer support program because she enjoys connecting with others.
“It just seemed like an opportunity for me to do something that I really like to do, which is connecting with people and help out with Building Hope at the same time,” she said.
One of the benefits of the program is that it helps both the people who utilize it and its volunteers.
“When COVID restrictions happened and people’s jobs became more tenuous and their own stress levels kind of rose, some of those people had no where to place that intention of wanting to help,” Maynard said. “This program in particular gives them a place, an outlet for that desire to help.”
Maynard added that the program allows the volunteers to feel connected in the same way the people who use it do. People who want to volunteer can sign up by visiting BuildingHopeSummit.org and clicking on the “get involved” tab.
Maynard and McAtamney said the program is acting as a pilot for similar resort communities. McAtamney said Building Hope is already collaborating with Eagle County on its own pilot program.
“It really takes a village so to be able to stand up this kind of stuff and have the opportunity to be a pilot site for this program is really amazing,” McAtamney said.
Mental health resources in Summit County
Colorado Crisis Line: call 844-493-8255, text “TALK” to 38255 or chat at ColoradoCrisisServices.org
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 800-273-8255 or chat at SuicidePreventionLifeline.org/chat
Mind Springs Health: 970-668-3478 or MindSpringsHealth.org
Colorado Crisis Line: ColoradoCrisisServices.org
Safe2Tell: 877-542-7233, Safe2Tell.org or download the Safe2Tell app to make a report
Building Hope: BuildingHopeSummit.org
Summit Community Care Clinic: 970-668-4040, SummitClinic.org/index.php/care-services/behavioral
Summit School District psychologist contacts
Summit High School: Anna Howden, firstname.lastname@example.org
Summit Middle School and Snowy Peaks: Anita Ferrell, email@example.com
Upper Blue, Breckenridge, Silverthorne and Frisco elementary schools: Audra Larcom, firstname.lastname@example.org
Summit Cove and Dillon Valley elementary schools: Robin Ackermann, email@example.com
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