El Paso’s own Project Amistad has been awarded a grant from the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities for a peer support specialist program in the greater El Paso community.
“The goal of our program is to expand access for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to information, training, and support, so that they can advocate for themselves and/or collaborate with allies to impact public policy, help improve service systems, and serve as community supports,” says Andrea Ramirez, Amistad’s chief operating officer of Social Service Programs.
The purpose of the program is to provide training for people with developmental disabilities so that they can serve as peer support specialists. Once trained, they then help other people with developmental disabilities, many of whom often live in institutions, enabling them to exercise more control over their own lives.
Amistad trains peer support specialists so that they can help people who have developmental disabilities and who live in institutions such as nursing homes or state-supported living centers, as well as those that live in intermediate care facilities.
The goal is to help these residents become active participants in the decision-making processes that directly affect them.
According to Amistad, many El Pasoans with developmental disabilities who reside in institutions are not fully aware of their rights. Therefore, they often do not participate in making decisions about their own futures, nor do they know about the options that exist that would allow them to be a more active member of their community.
Participants in the program gain more control over their lives, and are able to:
- Build skills to participate in their own person-centered planning
- Explore what opportunities exist for them
- Identify possible barriers
- Use information provided to make decisions.
The program’s peer support specialists must be 18 years old or greater, live in the El Paso area, and be able to demonstrate the ability to advocate and effectively facilitate change for others.