Transcript: Bridging mental health support and clinical care with peer specialists

Upbeat music plays. A smiling black woman in a floral shirt stands in front of a white brick house. Text appears.

ONSCREEN TEXT:     Niquita Ervine

                                    Peer Support Specialist


NIQUITA: My name is Niquita Ervine. I work for Optum UnitedHealthcare as a peer support specialist.

Niquita works on a laptop on the back porch of the house, a microphone in her ear.

NIQUITA: I assist members with their journey on recovery. Whether it’s substance abuse or a mental health disorder, I’m here to support them and help them advocate for themselves.

She interviews.

NIQUITA: I like to make people smile. I like to make people happy. I like to see the progress.

She speaks into her microphone.

NIQUITA: Hi, you’ve reached Niquita Ervine with UnitedHealthcare. How are you?

She interviews.

NIQUITA: About when I was twenty five I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I was one of those people that didn’t believe that mental health was real. But I learned that it was. I started to get curious about what caused it, and I went back to school to get my degree in psychology.

She gazes confidently over a coffee mug, then works on the patio.

NIQUITA: I wanted to help remove those stigmas that are placed on mental health.

She interviews.

NIQUITA: So I help people come to realization that you can overcome, and you can live a successful life. You can do what you wanna do.

A bald white man interviews outside the house. Text appears.

ONSCREEN TEXT:     Gregg Sherrill

                                    Clinical Director

                                    UnitedHealthcare of Texas

GREGG: You have these two organizations, really, with specialties on both sides. So you have UHC on the medical side…

Niquita steps out of the house. Gregg continues to speak in voiceover.

GREGG: You have Optum in this behavioral health space.

Niquita walks to her parked car.

GREGG: Sometimes we need to have that connection in that middle. And I think Niquita and peers like her are that space between the two.

She climbs into the car and drives away.

GREGG: They help that whole health recovery model kind of flow from both sides.

Her car wends down a suburban street. Niquita interviews.

NIQUITA: So you need someone who has… walked a mile in your shoes to say, “Listen, I’ve been where you are. But you can’t do everything by yourself.” You know, everybody needs some help.

Niquita sits on a bench in the courtyard of an apartment complex. A white woman in a motorized wheelchair heads toward her. Niquita rises to greet her.

ONSCREEN TEXT:     Ashley Beenau

                                    UnitedHealthcare Member

NIQUITA: How are you? I’m so excited!

Niquita speaks in voiceover as she gives Ashley a hug.

NIQUITA: When Ashley first entered the program, she started out clinically depressed.

Niquita walks beside Ashley.

NIQUITA: Ashley is born with cerebral palsy and a lot of other chronic illness that she deals with. I told her, I said, “You just tell me what it is you need, and I’ll make sure you get it.”

Niquita chuckles as she interviews.

NIQUITA: And she started to tell me.

Niquita types on a keyboard.

NIQUITA: I said, “Well, okay, I’m gonna call your service coordinator. You know, UnitedHealthcare, Optum, they are here to help you.”

Niquita interviews.

NIQUITA: I said, “I’ve seen them help so many people. And if you can just give me some time, I’ll make sure that you get everything you need.”

At the apartment complex, Niquita high-fives Ashley, then claps.

NIQUITA: I’m so happy for you!

Ashley interviews.

ASHLEY: But it’s pretty good now. I just call her when I need her. She’s pretty awesome.

Niquita interviews.

NIQUITA: Her care coordinator at the facility told me, “When Ashley works with you, she is such a different person.”

Niquita sits beside Ashley on a bench.

NIQUITA: “Her head is up high. She holds herself to a higher regard. Her self-esteem is up there.” She said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I don’t know, just helping her.”

She laughs. Niquita hugs Ashley. She interviews.

NIQUITA: I didn’t come to the job for the job. I came to help people, and seriously, I don’t know anything else to do.

The stacked blue U’s of the UnitedHealthcare logo appear, followed by text.