Redefining Mental Health Care With Peer Support

September 10, 2021 | 2 Min Video

Niquita Ervine understands the stigma that comes with a mental health diagnosis. A few years ago, Niquita was diagnosed with schizophrenia. While she received treatment, she often felt overwhelmed and misunderstood. This inspired her to further her education and become a peer support specialist.  In her role on the Optum Behavioral Health team, Niquita helps high-need, Medicaid members who are going through similar experiences.


Bridging Emotional Support and Clinical Care

Niquita has helped hundreds of patients during her six years as a peer support specialist. She connects them to health care services, she advocates for them, and she understands their stories. Above all, she can serve as an empathetic role model and prove recovery is possible.

“You need someone who has walked a mile in your shoes to say, ‘Listen, I’ve been where you are.' You can’t do everything by yourself. Everyone needs some help.” 

Niquita had a very positive impact on Ashley Beenau, a UnitedHealthcare member with multiple chronic illnesses who, before Niquita’s help, was frequently in the emergency room. Niquita worked closely with Ashley to ensure she was receiving the proper care and had access to the resources and education she needed to be successful in her treatment. Since developing a relationship with Niquita, Ashley has had zero hospital readmissions.

Making Connections on the Road to Recovery

Niquita is one of the many employees working to simplify and improve the patient experience by eliminating the burdens and stigma around behavioral health disorders — ultimately leading to better health outcomes. She’s in a unique position to bridge Optum’s behavioral health specialty and UnitedHealthcare’s health benefits for the ultimate benefit of the people we serve. Person-to-person peer support specialists are a crucial part of empowering others and can demonstrate that recovery is possible.



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