Name of Innovative Program:
The Main Place, Inc.
Name of Innovative Program Lead:
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
The Wellness Warriors program began as part of a collaborative wellness initiative, The Million Hearts grant, with other Consumer Operated Services (COS) in a 5-county area of central Ohio, to educate individuals who experience severe and persistent mental illness about cardiovascular disease. For participating in a majority of our wellness activities and completing at least one wellness program, members received a new pair of athletic shoes of their choice, as well as recognition and reward. The participants planned and hosted a regional peer recovery conference where attendees were recognized for their contributions.The Main Place is a mental health recovery center where persons experiencing mental illness can socialize, receive peer support and get education about recovery and wellness. We use a four-pronged approach to supporting consumers in achieving their wellness goals: group participation (connectedness), targeted peer support, education, and recognition and reward. Armed with education about health disparities and a supportive approach to personal weight loss and exercise, the Main Place Wellness Warriors continue their personal wellness goal setting. The program has been expanded with classes on nutrition and healthy eating, daily walking group, weekend warrior community walk/runs, tai chi classes, diabetes and tobacco cessation.
Creativity and Innovation:
Our greatest creative resource was the membership. Most of our members did not initially embrace the idea of a weight-loss or heart healthy programs. They did not initially voluntarily engage in physical activity or exercise. They were asked to exercise and weigh themselves five days a week, utilizing competition and reward. Several members lost over 20 lbs. each, through walking and healthy eating. Warriors proudly wear the t-shirts they have earned to community 5Ks and wellness events. Rewards have also included short bus trips to conferences, rallies and parks.The diversity of the skills and interests of the members dictated the kinds of activities in which we engaged. Members chose and designed each aspect from our daily walks to wellness conference activities. From line dancing to yoga, from 5K community walks to tai chi, every ability level was welcome.
The variety and number of leadership opportunities are one of the strengths of this project. Initially shy members emerged as leaders in this project, while many people whom we expected to take leadership roles were not as reliable as we might have hoped. This project has served as a reminder that leaders are not necessarily the individuals who are the most vocal or popular in the group. A healthy level of competition arose between the centers and even among friends, and participants developed a strong commitment to supporting one another in reaching their individual goals. As surprising new leaders emerged, other more hesitant and doubtful members gained new enthusiasm and the courage to try again. We often speak to about peers “holding hope for you, until you are ready.” This is an excellent example of that metaphor in action.
The original collaborative project was developed with a steering committee of peers from several COS in central Ohio. Decisions were made by a steering committee of peers. Individual centers chose different paths. The Main Place expanded the Wellness Warriors project and continued to work on individual goals after the project ended. Members grew and changed, achieving one goal, then expanding or adding additional personal goals as they became better educated about their own needs. One may start off with a goal of reducing diabetic symptoms by walking, but after becoming engaged in the program, may decide to increase participation in 5ks. There are many funding resources related to wellness at the state and federal level. We suggest partnering with other wellness organizations for health measurements. Commit to making specific healthy choices when planning activities, and make program purchases, (like serving only healthy snacks) that reflect a commitment to overall wellness.
This project could be duplicated or adapted by organizations with very small or larger budgets. This is a good project for peer centers with limited financial and staffing resources, as it can be as expanded as the organization wishes. Each center is unique and the interests of the different locations in our project changed over time. It is important to commit to supporting individual choice in wellness goals. It was more important to sustain engagement in the project than to actually meet a great goal. Effort and tenacity was celebrated as much as the attainment of goals. We also gathered written or creative stories by recovering individuals and shared these stories as inspiration to others.In terms of expense, the incentive prizes are an important element, but they can be free, donated or more expensive budgeted items like our shoes, which can be covered by grants.
Outcomes tracked:1. Individuals’ goals and goal attainment were recorded. For example, improved relationship with provider, symptom reduction, stress reduction, weight loss and improved AIC.2. Health outcomes (metabolic, clinical, quality of life, process) with measure of attainment. For example, data related to weight, blood pressure, body mass index, and blood sugar levels.3. Walking/running groups recorded participants, miles walked, time, and calories burned by the group each day.4. Increased social media awareness of the cardiovascular health initiatives and what consumers and providers can do to improve their health.5. We started a cardiovascular well-being topic thread on social media and encouraged others to post, and upload goals, and progress photos. 6. Participation in the project (number of events, event attendants and participants, and volunteers, primary and behavioral health providers to whom information was provided, and number of referrals to our programs and activities.