Silver and Bronze Achievement Awards 2009 APA Achievement Awards Silver Award: CHOICES, UMDNJ–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey—Peer Support to Promote Smoking Cessation

There is evidence that the mentally ill population has less access to tobacco treatment services than the general population. One model for systems change is to target   consumers directly to boost the demand for tobacco cessation services. One way of doing so is to involve persons with mental illness in talking with peers with mental illness who smoke and who may have low motivation to address their tobacco use. In the CHOICES program, patients are the peer providers. Peer-delivered services are in keeping with the recovery model’s goal to provide services via people who have experienced the condition themselves. To those fearful of change, peers are less threatening than professionals. Mental health consumers also report high satisfaction with peer-delivered services.  The CHOICES program, based at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, takes a unique consumer-driven approach to addressing tobacco dependence among people with mental illness. The full name behind CHOICES—Consumers Helping Others Improve Their Condition by Ending Smoking—symbolizes empowerment and personal choice in recovery.  CHOICES employs mental health peer counselors to deliver the message to smokers with mental illness in the community that addressing tobacco use is vital to their health and to motivate them to seek treatment. CHOICES mental health peer counselors, or consumer tobacco advocates (CTAs), serve as consultants to consumers to assist them with linkages to treatment, referrals, advocacy, and support and to provide educational materials.