Peer-to-Peer Support Line

Peer-to-Peer Support Line

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Peer-to-Peer Support Line of the Mental Health Association of Morris County provides after-hours telephone counseling to people with mental illness.  It is staffed by trained operators who are in recovery from mental illness.  The operators also use it as a stepping stone towards paid employment.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

People with mental illness often feel isolated and must cope with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. This sometimes causes them to use the hotline or to reach out to psychiatric emergency services to talk. This ties up resources that were meant to be dedicated for true psychiatric emergencies. Also, people with mental illness experience barriers to employment mostly due to stigma.
About You
Mental Health Association of Morris County, Inc.
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name


Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Mental Health Association of Morris County, Inc.

Organization Phone


Organization Address

100 Route 46 East, Building C, Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046

Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on
What makes your idea unique?

The Peer-to-Peer Support Line is not a hot-line but a "warm" line. In other words, its purpose is not to handle crisis but to avert crisis by providing an outlet for people with mental illness to talk. What makes this idea unique is that the warm line is staffed by operators who are in recovery from mental illness who can empathize with the callers and offer support. The operators receive training in crisis intervention so they can refer a caller in crisis to psychiatric emergency services if needed. The operators also receive training in empathic listening.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had?

In 2008, we operated one toll-free number and provided 647 hours of service by 9 operators to 120 individuals. However, we currently have a waiting list of some 20 individuals that want to be trained as operators. In addition, callers report frequent busy signals because only one toll-free line is operational. We would like to expand to 3 phone lines, 30 operators, and over 400 callers – some 12,000 calls per year.

We believe that we have been able to free up psychiatric emergency services and the hotlines for true emergencies. Callers can call the Peer-to-Peer Support Line when they are lonely, sad, or anxious and receive support. The Peer-to-Peer Support Line is available from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. 365 evenings per year when the callers are most likely to feel the need to talk.


We recruit people who are in recovery from mental illness to work for the Peer-to-Peer Support Line. We have a toll-free number which relays the calls to the operators in their own homes. This allows the operators to be free of the need for transportation in order to do their work. The Peer-to-Peer Support Line is made available to callers between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. daily. The operators are trained in empathic listening and crisis intervention. Calls are logged and reviewed by a supervisor with a Master's degree in Counseling. The volunteers build on their success at Peer-to-Peer Support Line, using the experience towards future paid employment.


In 2007, 82% of callers surveyed reported that Peer-to-Peer Support Line was very helpful in giving support. Of the callers surveyed who called the line when thinking of calling the psychiatric emergency service, 88% felt that the line met their needs. Of the operator staff surveyed, 86% felt that their work experience on the line was very helpful in developing job skills. Also, 86% of the operators felt it was very helpful in learning how to help people in need.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

With our Peer-to-Peer Support Line so popular, we have problems with busy signals which keep callers waiting for their turn to talk. During 2010, we need to attract more funding for a second and third line, to maintain accessibility of the service to more callers. We need to continue our current funding base, seek follow-on funding, and continue to recruit qualified operators.

During 2011, we will need to maintain our funding sources from 2010 to keep the second and third lines operational. We could anticipate recruiting more volunteers and advertise our service more extensively.

During 2012, we will need to assess where we are with our service, maintain our funding and continue to expand if appropriate. We can provide assistance to our volunteers in finding future employment positions and offer that as an incentive to volunteering.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

If we do not expand our line capacity to address the problem of callers getting a busy signal, they may become discouraged and not use the service, and may resort back to using the hotline and psychiatric emergency services. Funding is critical to securing additional lines to prevent a busy signal. We also need to recruit operators who are in recovery from mental illness and advertise our service in more places in our community.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Mental Health Association of Morris County, Inc.

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Our partnerships with other non-profits open doors for us to recruit our operators who are in recovery from mental illness and to advertise to our callers. We can take referrals from these agencies and distribute fliers. Some of these places include hospitals, homeless shelters, and welfare offices.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

1) Increase funding
2) Add one or more phone lines to handle call volume
3) Increase publicity to recruit more volunteers and attract more callers to the service

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The Peer-to-Peer Support Line is based on the modern-day Recovery Model of the 1980’s, with one of the components of recovery being peer support. Peer line was supposed to be synonymous with social justice. The original purpose of the Peer Line was to promote the consumer mental health movement that really began to take off with the Recovery Model. Many Peer Line workers began to “find their voice” and to incorporate new positive roles into their schemas and to shake loose self-stigmatizing images of mental illness. The Peer Line continues to be a venue for consumers to help other consumers find hope and to share their stories of recovery. When the idea of a peer-run warm line was conceived, Morris County’s mental health system (as it was throughout the nation) was based on a medical model that trained mental health professionals to be the “experts” and authoritarians when treating people with mental illness. Today the Wellness and Recovery model has for the most part replaced medical model for treatment and care of people with mental illness.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Incorporated in 1953, the Mental Health Association of Morris County’s mission is to empower people with mental illness to lead quality lives in the community of their choice, to decrease the stigma of mental illness, to increase public awareness of mental health and mental illness, to promote mental wellness, and to fill gaps in the Morris County mental health system. Unlike most mental health agencies, the Mental Health Association of Morris County employs people who are in recovery from mental illness in all of its programs. Thirty-five percent of the workforce of the Mental Health Association of Morris County are people who are in recovery from mental illness. It is no surprise then that the Mental Health Association of Morris County also uses volunteers in recovery from mental illness for the Peer-to-Peer Support Line. The Mental Health Association of Morris County offers other programs that are innovative. For instance, the Healthy Cooking Club is a group of consumers who plan, shop, and cook with healthy recipes and produce a cookbook at the end of the year. The Supportive Housing Program employs consumers who daily visit others who are new to recovery and assist them with errands and chores. Consumers are used in the soup kitchens in Morristown and Dover to reach out to homeless mentally ill and help them get the medication they need and shelter. We also employ consumers as case managers in our homeless outreach program and intensive case management services program.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

Foundation Center