For Danny Sosa, working as a peer advocate at Zucker Hillside Hospital (ZHH) isn’t just a job, it’s a way for him to make a difference using his own life experience.
Danny started his Northwell Health journey as a volunteer in our Peer Training program that helps prepare individuals to work as peer advocates. Our peer advocates are vital Northwell team members who provide support and advice for individuals going through similar experiences or who have disabilities. Throughout the three-month program, Danny learned from current colleagues about what peer work entails, as well as volunteering to go to the inpatient wards as a peer-in-training to get hands-on experience leading groups. After completion, Danny was partnered with a job coach and maintains close bonds with his fellow peers-in-training to this day.
Now as a peer advocate, Danny works closely with OnTrackNY, a program that helps adolescents and young adults who may have behavioral health needs, and Strong365, a mental health support community. Meeting with these individuals in the Early Treatment program, Danny runs and participates in group sessions as well as other activities part of the program.
Having received support from OnTrackNY himself gives Danny the valuable opportunity to connect with the program participants. “Being a peer advocate is about bringing my personal life experience to a conversation,” says Danny. “I get to help people currently going through a hard point in their life the same way I was helped. Being able to share how I grew and continue to learn from it can help others. I strongly believe it’s small steps leading to big changes.”
Peer Advocacy at Zucker Hillside Hospital
At Northwell’s ZHH, Danny found an inclusive environment that welcomed him as an asset to the team, not only for his hard work and passion, but also for his ability to deliver unique support and understanding. “Since I started at ZHH, the whole team has been very welcoming. Hearing how much of a difference having me participate in groups can make from team members or having a participant speak to me after a program, allows me to appreciate what an amazing opportunity I have to help people here.”
Danny has flourished in his career at Northwell and has even recently been asked to participate in a statewide project. This 18-month research project with Strong365, OntrackNY and Northwell provides New York residents who have behavioral health needs with mental health resources. Danny will act as one of the contacts that individuals can reach out to in order to be connected to the right programs for their needs.
His commitment to helping others with behavioral health needs has set him up for a future within our organization. “Being part of Northwell has allowed me to forge my own path as a peer,” says Danny. “The support and training I received helped me to become comfortable with sharing my story and feeling that I was contributing in a positive way to someone’s first experience.” Believing in little moments, he helps deliver Truly Compassionate care and understanding to people in their time of need.
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