Carolinas HealthCare System

Peer Support Specialists Enhance Patient Experience at Davidson

Nehal P. Thakkar, MD

Joseph Swafford
Peer Support Specialist at the Mindy Ellen Levine Behavioral Health Center

Shawn Caldwell and Joseph Swafford, peer support specialists at Carolinas HealthCare System's Mindy Ellen Levine Behavioral Health Center, are in a unique position – former patients who are now using their experience and knowledge to motivate and assist current patients who are undergoing treatment for behavioral health diagnosis. 

Caldwell and Swafford currently make up the Peer Support Specialists team at the new behavioral health center which opened earlier this year. And Joanne Sobolewski, manager of patient services at the behavioral health center, said they help make up a key component of the multidisciplinary team, while actively enhancing the patients’ treatment.

“They develop a rapport with each patient and make them comfortable sharing their stories because they realize that the specialist has also had a similar experience,” Sobolewski said.

The program also proves rewarding to the peer support specialists and the career they chose to assist others. 

“I get to give hope to a lot of hopeless people,” Caldwell said. “I don’t make a million bucks, but when you see a patient get a little bit of hope you realize that hope has no monetary value. It makes me thankful to all the people that gave me hope when I was hopeless.”

“The peer specialists bring a new level of intervention at Davidson,” Tom Gettelman, PhD, vice president of behavioral health and facility executive at the behavioral health center. “Their work, in conjunction with the clinical staff, helps bring empathy and compassion to patients.”

The specialists themselves are required to be in recovery from either a mental health issue and or a substance abuse issue. “They have presented as strong advocates for the client’s individual treatment needs and have provided valuable information to our psychiatrists and the clinical team,” Sobolewski said.

To learn more about the program, contact Joanne Sobolewski at (704) 801-9425.