In this mixed-methods study, Executive Directors (EDs) at three Consumer Operated Service Providers (COSPs) collaborated with researchers at the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health to collect and examine COSP member outcomes data. COSPs are operated and governed by mental health peer providers. These organizations deliver peer services and engage individuals with lived experience of mental health conditions to participate in their community.
In this participatory action research project, researchers provided consultation and technical assistance to COSP EDs and staff surveying their members, to examine the benefits of their organizations’ services, as well as areas for improvement. As a result, EDs could implement service changes, develop and improve funding strategies, and promote awareness of their organizations at the state and national level.
Researchers and EDs collaboratively developed a survey to distribute to members that included 15 quantitative items from the Recovery-Oriented Services Assessment (ROSA) and 3 open-ended qualitative items. COSP EDs and staff distributed the survey to members via email, paper forms, and website links. A total of 179 surveys were completed and analyzed.
Quantitative data indicated that items on the ROSA comprised one principle component, “recovery orientation.” The scale exhibited high internal consistency. For all three organizations, ROSA items rated most highly, in terms of frequency of delivery, included introducing members to peer support, modeling hope for members, and respecting members’ decisions about their lives. Lower scored items included discussing members’ spiritual needs and providing trauma-specific services. The average overall ROSA score indicated that members felt the services they received were more-than-often to always recovery-oriented (M = 4.27, SD = 0.73).
Qualitative data suggested that COSPs provide members with recovery and wellness support, social integration and support, and imbue members with confidence to reach their goals, a sense of hope for the future, and new perspectives and knowledge. In doing so, COSPs change their members’ lives. COSP members described experiencing significant life changes upon attending their COSP. They reported taking actions to fulfill their hopes for the future, including engaging in self-care and self-improvement and working towards health and wellness, recovery, employment, educational, and other goals. These data suggest that COSPs provide members with support they may not receive elsewhere and are an essential complement to traditional mental health services.
Conclusions and Implications
This study demonstrates the importance of collaborating with people with lived experience of mental health conditions in the research process. EDs provided invaluable input and feedback throughout the project. The results of this study suggest the need to continue and expand funding for COSPs, as they provide recovery-oriented services and offer members unique support, as evidenced by members’ comparisons of their current life circumstances with their life before attending their COSP.
Results of this study have been used by COSP EDs to inform service provision changes, promote advocacy for their organizations, demonstrate efficacy to stakeholders, and identify funding opportunities. As a result, in 2021, three additional COSPs are engaged in ongoing study to examine member outcomes to inform service provision.