Mount Sinai Spinal Cord Injury Model System
Peer Mentoring and Community Outreach

Peer Mentoring

MS-SCI-MS staff believes strongly in peer mentoring. Who better to make suggestions, listen to or answer questions, than the person who has lived with an SCI?

Four programs at MS-SCI-MS, the Peer Mentoring Partnership Program, the Peer Visitors Program, the Life Coaching Program, and the Health and Wellness Series provide peer mentoring and support for people with SCI.

The Mount Sinai SCI Peer Mentor Partnership Program matches up persons who have recently incurred SCI with a volunteer "peer mentor" who is living successfully in the community with a spinal injury. Mentors and mentees are matched on the basis of common background and interests. Mentors are trained and supported by Mount Sinai staff. They make the first contact with their "mentee" when the newly injured person is still an inpatient. After discharge, the mentor supports the mentee for a period of at least six months. Contacts are by phone, by e-mail and in person, and address all issues the newly discharged person may be struggling with.

Mount Sinai has created a training manual for its Peer Mentoring Program, as well as a manual to help other organizations and agencies develop SCI peer mentoring programs. These manuals were created through the generous support of the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Peer Visitors is a group that meets every Tuesday night at 6:00 P.M. on KCC 2, the SCI inpatient unit. This group, consisting of mentors trained in the Mentoring Program, meets informally with inpatients and their visiting family and friends. They feel that as veterans, they can act as resources and/or mentors. The Peer Visitors are available to answer questions, make suggestions, or offer advice. They are able to bring a unique perspective to what they say, having "lived it." Patients and family members/significant others are encouraged to meet with the participants of the program.

Life Coaching Program This is an intense 10 session program led by Scott Chesney, a trained life coach with SCI. The program teaches participants to effectively take responsibility for their lives by identifying barriers, setting goals, and implementing strategies for moving on with life and "living large." The program empowers people with SCI to take action and create positive change in their lives.

Health and Wellness Series Through the generosity of the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, a collection of seven web-based videos on living healthy after SCI were created. This Series focuses specifically on important issues relating to life after SCI; reinventing yourself, exercising and keeping fit, redefining your sexuality, weight management, adapting sports and recreation, proper nutrition, and moving on with your life after SCI. To view these exciting videos, go to: A sample of these videos is also available at

Other Community Outreach Activities

The Life Challenge Adventure Program is a unique program that challenges spinal cord injured outpatients with situations and obstacles that seem impossible for them because of their disabilities. However, the Life Challenge program is based on the idea that when individuals confront their obstacles and succeed, they become stronger people. They become empowered. Utilizing high-activity and on-the-edge leisure adventure trips (snow skiing, water skiing, white water rafting, scuba diving, sky diving, and similar activities), the participants along with family members and friends face obstacles together. Through problem solving and teamwork, success is achieved with the realization that, "If I can do this, I can do anything."

Four to eight trips are offered each year; some trips are one day long, others take multiple days over a weekend. The costs to attend a Life Challenge Trip are between $100-$300 per person; this is not paid by insurance. Through The Greater New York Chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NYCSCIA), the Andrew Bryce Scholarship Fund, and the Ethan Ruby Foundation; scholarships are made available to assist outpatients in attending these outings.

Mount Sinai also collaborates with The Greater New York Chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NYCSCIA). NYCSCIA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to motivate and empower individuals with spinal cord injuries and to educate them and the community about the effects of spinal cord injury and diseases. The NYCSCIA meets the fourth Tuesday of each month in the second floor dining room of KCC-2 at Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Center. Mount Sinai staff provide support to NYCSCIA's Think First program, an education program that utilizes persons who have sustained spinal cord injuries to help prevent traumatic injuries among young people, by teaching them to think first and use their minds to protect their bodies. NYCSCIA also supports the Urban Outings Program, which is designed for persons who are recently injured and beginning to explore community resources. Experienced peer mentors help those with recent SCI get out of their homes and participate in social and recreational events in the community. Outings include trips to museums, sporting events, parks, and restaurants, among other locations.