Sep 1, 2016

The Opportunity Alliance Awarded Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant

The Opportunity Alliance (TOA) has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that will allow it to evaluate the impact of peer services within TOA's Behavioral Health Home.

The Opportunity Alliance (TOA) has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that will allow it to evaluate the impact of peer services within TOA’s Behavioral Health Home. Peer to peer support has long been used in many areas of healthcare demonstrating long-term benefits for individuals attempting recovery from a variety of physical illnesses. Intentional Peer Support for people attempting long-term recovery from mental illness and co-occurring disorders brings peer to peer programming to the behavioral health arena with equally impressive results.

Behavioral Health Homes are still a relatively new model of coordinated care for persons living with severe mental illness. TOA has been a leader in developing the model in Maine. Its Behavioral Health Home is a partnership between TOA’s Community Support Services community mental health program, and several local Health Home Primary Care practices, with a goal of better managing the integrated physical and behavioral health needs of eligible adults. This program represents a targeted effort to improve mental and physical health outcomes for individuals living with severe and persistent mental illness and co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, following on the foundational understanding that prospects for recovery increase when efforts to support the individual are collaborative and focused on the whole health of the person. The client and Care Coordinator (case manager) work together with the client’s medical and mental health providers, supported in the process by the TOA Behavioral Health Home team, which includes a Nurse Care Manager, a medical consultant, a psychiatric consultant, a clinical team leader, and Peer and Family Health Navigators. 


TOA has long supported peer to peer programming for the people who come to them for help. This peer programming can take the form of crisis prevention and intervention, where peers can help an individual in a mental health or substance misuse crisis become and stay engaged in recovery, or in health and wellness programming, where peers conduct workshops and drop-in groups that focus on community inclusion. Very often, persons living with a mental illness feel disconnected from any sort of community and the natural supports that a community can offer, but in a peer to peer relationship, individuals living with a mental illness or possible co-occurring substance misuse disorder have the opportunity to build connection and redefine help as a co-learning process. The relationship between the peer provider and the consumer is one of mutual responsibility.


The project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant will focus on TOA Behavioral Health Home clients with Serious Mental Illness enrolled in Medicaid (MaineCare). The intent of the evaluation is to inform the spread of this model across Maine and possibly further. Rates of Serious Mental Illness for adults range from four to six percent, affecting more than 11 million adults nationwide. There are approximately 51,000 adults in Maine with Serious Mental Illness.

For more information on this or any of The Opportunity Alliance’s programs or projects, please contact Jim Gemmell: – (207) 523-5014.


About The Opportunity Alliance

The Opportunity Alliance (TOA) is the Community Action Agency for Cumberland County. Through multiple integrated community based and clinical programs, it serves more than 20,000 people annually throughout Maine. For 50 years, TOA has provided advocacy, leadership, and support to help individuals, families, and communities identify goals and address their needs.

TOA programming includes: Early Childhood Education; Family and Community Supports; Mental Health Services for Children, Youth, and Adults; Crisis Intervention and Prevention; Information and Referral; and Community Initiatives.


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at