Transcript: How a peer support worker helped save a Texas man’s life

Ethereal music plays as sunlight shines on bright green treetops on a clear day. A gray-haired man wearing a white dress shirt and khakis strolls down a wooded path, dried leaves crunching under his feet.

MICHAEL: I had a little one-man tent right there.

The view pans over the leafy ground, and the man turns to reveal a dark tie with splashes of color, a gray moustache, and aviator glasses. A banner appears in the lower left corner of the screen.

ON SCREEN TEXT:          Michael

                                          UnitedHealthcare member

MICHAEL: This is it.

He gestures to the forest around him, then turns to the camera and points emphatically off to the side.

MICHAEL: This is where I was. In a wheelchair. Homeless. Couldn’t talk. Couldn’t walk.

A bit of string is tied to the base of a tree. The view passes over a small clearing surrounding by dense young trees. Michael shoves his hands in his pockets as he gazes off.

MICHAEL: With no hope.

Now, a woman with red hair, sunglasses, large gold earrings, and bedazzled rings drives past the wooded area as the sun shines in the bright blue sky.

CLAUDIA: And I knew that he was out there with no coat and no blanket.

The view zooms in on the woman’s hands as she drives. A banner appears in the lower left corner.

ON SCREEN TEXT:          Claudia Dominguez

                                          Optum Behavioral Health – Certified Peer Support Specialist

CLAUDIA: As a Peer Support Specialist, I go out into the community to help those that are struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse issues.

As Claudia drives onto a main drag, she passes a gas station, and a school bus zooms past. Michael stands in the woods.

CLAUDIA: Michael was struggling with the relapse and more so with his mental health.

Michael’s feet tread across dried leaves and fallen branches. The screen darkens, and white text appears.

ON SCREEN TEXT:          Michael tried to end his life.                            

More text fades into view.

ON SCREEN TEXT:    Then he suffered a stroke.

                                    That’s when Claudia,

                                    a Peer Support specialist,

                                    stepped in to help

                                    Michael with his recovery.

Now, the view focuses on the exterior of an apartment in an old building with the number 3 on the white door. A pale green trim surrounds the door and windows, and a set of drawers, a table, and a chair sit outside. Inside, Michael eases out of his wheelchair and walks into his kitchen with a travel mug. He turns on the faucet.

MICHAEL: Not being able to get any assistance to help me get this apartment.

He turns off the water. An oven mitt reads It’s so good to be home. Claudia sits on his couch holding her phone in a sparkly golden case. She watches Michael as he talks.

MICHAEL: She made hundreds of calls. I know she did. She called everybody on my behalf.

The wheels on Michael’s wheelchair move as he shifts in his seat.

CLAUDIA: I advocated for him to help him get his wheelchair. He was falling everywhere.

Michael clutches his mug.

CLAUDIA: I took it upon myself to try to help him find somewhere to go, what kind of resources in the community were available to him.

They chat together in Michael’s modestly furnished living room.

CLAUDIA: It was heartbreaking. He had no one.

Michael steps out of his apartment and stands outside. A small ramp covered in rugs leads up to the door.

CLAUDIA: I wanted him to know that it just takes one someone. I know that ‘cause it just took one someone for me.

She interviews in Michael’s living room.

CLAUDIA: I am a recovered drug addict. I’m 14 years clean from drug abuse. I still struggle and manage my mental health diagnosises.

The glass-topped coffee table reflects her face.

CLAUDIA: And I know that it’s really common to hear “If I could do it, you can do it,” but I’m living proof.

Now, a man in a beige suitcoat interviews in a conference room. A banner appears in the lower left corner.

ON SCREEN TEXT:          Don Langer

                                          CEO, C&S Texas – UnitedHealthcare

DON: That when you really think about the Peer Support people that we have on our team—but the fact that they actually took themselves out of that path and now are turning that around to help other people I think really tells me that they are really the heroes.

A photo shows Michael and Claudia smiling outside Michael’s apartment.

DON: Working with companies like Optum to be able to incorporate the behavioral side and the medical together, altogether. To really look at the person holistically.

Michael and Claudia sit on a couch together.

MICHAEL: You restored that hope.

CLAUDIA: Oh…

She bows her head and places a hand on Michael’s shoulder.

CLAUDIA: Thank you for letting me be a part of that.

She gazes at Michael, emotional.

CLAUDIA: You’ve come a long way. I’m so proud of you.

Now, Claudia interviews.

CLAUDIA: If I could be that one person to somebody else, even if just to one somebody else, then I’ve done well.

Michael pulls Claudia into a hug, and they hold each other tightly.

MICHAEL: I’m going to become a Peer Specialist because out of all the despair, there was light. And she was that light.

The sun shines through leaves in the forest, and the view sweeps over the clearing where Michael lived.

MICHAEL: I’m not ever gonna lose hope again. I’ve seen what’s possible.

Leaves crunch beneath Michael’s feet as he walks out of the woods. A logo appears on a white background.

ON SCREEN TEXT:          UnitedHealthcare®

The picture fades to black.