NYC Health + Hospitals is celebrating the first year of its Peer Academy

NYC Health + Hospitals is celebrating the first year of its Peer Academy

Peer Academy trains peer counselors who use their lived experience with substance use or mental illness to engage patients

NYC Health + Hospitals has the largest workforce of hospitals in the city

December 15, 2022

NYC Health + Hospitals today announced a successful first year of its Peer Academy, a training program for people who have experienced mental health or substance use conditions to become peer counselors. In the first class this spring, students ranged in age from 20 to 60, with an average age of 43. Twelve of the 18 graduates of the first class were hired as associate advisors at NYC Health + Hospitals. Twenty additional students graduate from the program today. NYC Health + Hospitals currently has 83 system partners, the largest hospital workforce in the city. In addition to the classroom hours required for state certification, the program includes a 2-month full-time hospital internship with rotations in the hospital’s mental health unit, emergency room, and street teams. Peer Academy staff work with interns to help them find employment within six months of graduation.

“Peers have an extraordinary ability to connect with patients and help them continue their treatment,” said Charles Barron, MD, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Office of Behavioral Health, NYC Health + Hospitals. “This is essential in a hospital where we serve patients with the highest needs for mental health and substance use care. NYC Health + Hospitals is proud to invest in this critical workforce to provide compassionate and effective care for our patients.”

“The Peer Academy has given me this incredible opportunity to inspire and support others who are suffering from addiction so that they don’t have to go through it alone,” said Jack Chudasama, a student in the first cohort of Peer Academy who is now a Peer Counselor at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst. “I’ve struggled with addiction for 30 years, so being a peer counselor is helpful for my own recovery as well. It grounds me and gives me a strong sense of purpose.”

“For years I saw a psychiatrist and a therapist, but when I started working with a peer counselor and going to a peer support group, I had a breakthrough,” said Brian Pelzer, who receives services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull. “You’re with other people who have similar problems and you realize that there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I reconnected with my family and learned techniques that help me in my daily life. Now I go to my peer group every week and it’s part of my recovery.”

The Peer Academy includes the hours required for state certifications to become a Certified Peer Mental Health Professional and a Certified Substance Use Recovery Peer Advocate. Includes over 20 hours of online seminars, 177 hours of classroom training, and 126 hours of hospital internship.

Contact: [email protected]; 212.788.3339

About NYC Health + Hospitals
NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest municipal health system in the nation. We are a network of 11 hospitals, trauma centers, community health centers, nursing homes and post-acute care centers. We are a home care agency and health plan, MetroPlus. Our health system provides essential services to more than one million New Yorkers each year in more than 70 locations across the city’s five boroughs. Our diverse workforce of more than 43,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest lives possible. Visit us at and connect on Facebook at or Twitter at @NYCHealthSystem.

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