Short answer: Peer-led navigation refers to the aspect of peer support services where individuals who have lived experience with mental health and/or substance use challenges themselves assist people in navigating the complex landscape of mental health care. These peers use their personal experiences and training to guide and support others in accessing the appropriate mental health services, resources, and information they need to address their mental health concerns. This form of support is rooted in empathy, understanding, and shared experiences, and is a valuable — yet underutilized — component of the mental health care system. 


The Manifesto Health Difference: Peer navigation is not a new concept. In fact, peer navigators have been utilized as linkage to community resources and access to care in a multitude of forms such as living with complex medical conditions and reintegration post-incarceration. Manifesto’s peer specialists are especially trained to navigate people in need through the complex and fragmented process of finding clinical treatment. They have walked a similar path of seeking mental health support which gives them a deep understanding of the feelings, fears, and uncertainties that can accompany help-seeking. 


Currently, access to mental health and substance use care is burdened with barriers such as an alarming supply crunch of mental health providers and months-long wait lists for clinical treatment. Manifesto’s peer specialists are equipped to keep people “warm” and engaged in the waiting period before an intake appointment. Further, our peer specialists engage people post-treatment to effectively extend the continuum of support and help sustain recovery journeys for the long run — bolstering critical processes such as integrating back into the workforce in the event of a medical leave of absence. 


Importantly, when navigation services are “peer-led” in mental health care, the peer professional leads the interaction with the patient. However, peer specialists are not trained or certified to diagnose, assess, or recommend specific treatment levels or modalities. Supervision of the peer professionals by Manifesto Health’s expert clinical team enables the efficient and evidence-based triage process to treatment providers when clinical needs and criteria arise. 


Peer-led navigation has demonstrated efficacy by: 

  • Increasing capacity to navigate service systems and advocate for coordinated and integrated care and support
  • Having a peer worker provide non-clinical support to people experiencing mental health and substance use issues and supporting them while navigating the service system 
  • Integrating social connection within mental health care 
  • Addressing the broader social determinants of health and factors that contribute to distress and mental health challenges (such as homelessness or not having a primary care practitioner)
  • Supporting service systems where there is a workforce shortage and/or overburdened workload of mental health clinical staff, such as underserved and rural areas 


Stay tuned for more posts describing the versatile roles of Manifesto’s utility peer specialist (see graphic) such as Crisis De-escalation, Early Intervention, Data & Outcome Reporting, and more!