MINNPOST, Minneapolis, MN
By Andy Steiner
It’s hard enough to find a qualified therapist, but imagine being deaf and looking for a mental health professional who: 1) speaks your language (ASL); and 2) understands the intricacies of deaf culture. Not an easy task.
With the help of interpreters, hearing therapists often work with deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing patients, but the presence of a stranger in the treatment room can be awkward, to say the least. In Minnesota, there only a few therapists who are either deaf or hearing but fluent in ASL. Waiting lists to see them can be months long.
In recognition of these concerns, two years ago the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division established a Certified Peer Support Specialist Program. The program is like other peer support specialist programs around the state, except for one big difference: The peer support specialists on the team are all deaf or hard of hearing people who have experience with mental illness. They’ve been trained to provide support and guidance to their peers.