Webinar presenters Hilary Weinberg and Jennifer Heisig answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Building Peer Support Programs for Prosecutors. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: Has the program received any subpoenas for information related to a peer support contact?
Hilary Weinberg: No.
Audience Question: And then follow up to that is the office policy that you talked about on confidentiality? Is it available somewhere? Could we get that as a sample?
Hilary Weinberg: I don’t know that we can really share those outside of the office. I mean, we’re happy to talk to you about what is in there, but I can’t just like mail you, the policies on there. But we will, we’re happy to talk to people about, generally, what is in our policies on there. I mean, we also take it very seriously. I mean, we have a specific policy for the Peer Support program.
Audience Question: Can supervisors provide support as a peer for a direct subordinate or vice versa?
Hilary Weinberg: Now, we try to discourage that. And that’s one of the reasons why we actually came up with the two levels of the peer support program was we wanted to separate out the supervisory role from the peer support role. You know, when I was a supervisor and family violence, I mean it might, I always told my people, you can come to me, but if there were certain things that were, I thought we’re kind of more issues, I would tread lightly on that I think it might be better to talk to somebody else. I definitely would send them there. So, we definitely want to keep it a big division between what you talk to your supervisor about as an employee, versus just talking to somebody on the team. So, I mean, even if, like, well, if you had an example where an employee maybe went to a supervisor who was on the team but not as a supervisor capacity, it’s different than going to your own supervisor. But that is kind of the reason why we came up with the two levels of people on the team so that we didn’t have to have those types of issues or discussions on there.
Jennifer Heisig: If we look at the peer support model, either even with law enforcement. It is supervisor to supervisor. The rank is the same, typically with the peer support response.
Audience Question: Can you be more specific regarding accountability as it relates to breach of confidentiality? Can you just give us a little bit more details around that?
Hilary Weinberg: Sure. Just in general, with regard to confidentiality, as I mentioned, it’s actually a part of our policy. And actually, we could have somebody terminated from our office for breaching that confidentiality as a member of the peer support program. So, it goes, it goes really, really far as what they can and cannot disclose. If there is some type of an issue or gray area. That’s why Jennifer and I are kind of, where here as the first line, we know we can talk about things, you know, in a kind of a vague sense. And we may have to consult Dr. Jeni and get her involved as far as whether there is something that needs to be disclosed to somewhere else. But, I mean, we take that incredibly seriously. We don’t take notes during any of our meetings with our clients. We absolutely discourage that, we’re there to listen. And the most that we might do is follow up with that person, say, “Hey, I talked to you last week, is everything okay?” But we don’t take notes on it, we don’t disclose notes on anything like that. It’s really, really, about as confidential as you can get with those very limited exceptions.
Audience Question: Are there any continuing education requirements for team members?
Jennifer Heisig: We do. We have our basis or foundation training and then we always make sure that we continue. We talk to our team members, and we say, “What do you guys need?” What are some areas you feel like training would be helpful? And so, we’re always looking for training, Doctor Jeni also comes back and attends some of our meetings to provide additional training. So, there is always continuing education for our team.
Hilary Weinberg: Right. And we’re trying to be a little better about that. I mean, obviously, with COVID, and not knowing how long people are going to be out of the office and who was going to be here. And, I mean, there’s a lot of unknowns with this, like I’m sure a lot of your agencies have dealt with as well. So, we’re talking about seeing if Dr. Jeni is available to do something maybe on a Zoom call for the team, whoever is available. You know, we also are sensitive to the fact that some of our team members may not be working all the same regular hours as other people. There are some people who, you know, may have small children who have to kind of be attentive to them when they were in school. And so, they may be working more at night or on weekends and different hours. So, we’re doing the best that we can right now. And just kind of looking forward to some kind of sense of normalcy and I’m sure there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and we’re very much looking forward to it
Jennifer Heisig: And we do regularly send out e-mails. If there’s a training that would be great for them. I’m always shooting out e-mails to say, “Hey, a training for, a webinar from Justice Clearinghouse” or whatever. You know, we’re always shooting out e-mails to our team members saying, hey, this may be a training that would be helpful for you as a peer support member.
Audience Question: Has your office tracked any results from the program? For example, has it reduced turnover, improved morale, reduce costs in some way? Have you noticed any tracking along those lines?
Hilary Weinberg: We don’t specifically track that type of information. Jennifer is sort of our staff person, and so she’s in charge of making sure the Chief Deputy is informed of, you know, how many calls generally we responded to, and things like that, that we talked about in our statistics form. But, you know, in general, I can say that. I know that our team members have helped retain a number of people over the years who were ready to walk out the door. And anytime you retain a good employee, you save that company money because they put time and effort into training those people, just having people who know what they’re doing. Having good people around it is just can be really invaluable. So, well, I don’t have a lot of details about what a lot of people have done in the team, because, as I said, we don’t talk about that. We can say that we know we have saved some people from leaving our office. We’re very grateful for that, and I think that’s part of what ways into this. But we, I don’t think there’s a way without confidentiality issues, that we could keep that kind of a statistic.
Jennifer Heisig: And I think that would be very, it would be difficult to track, certainly would be interesting to track. But would be difficult to track because of the variables, there are so many different variables now, I mean, there’s you know, with COVID and just other issues going on that. I think it was very difficult to ascertain the impact of our peer support program fully.
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