Consumer-Operated Support Programs

E. Sally Rogers, Sc.D.
Principal Investigator

Helen Minth, ACSW
Director of the Empowerment Center
COSP SC consumer representative

Research Mission

The St. Louis Empowerment Center and Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation formed a partnership to study the effects of attending a consumer-operated drop-in center.

This project was part of an on-site research study funded by the Center for Mental Health Services. The goals of this multisite effort were to study the effects of consumer operated programs on the following outcomes: employment, housing, empowerment, social inclusion, and satisfaction with services. In addition, costs were evaluated.

St. Louis Empowerment Center

The St. Louis Empowerment Center is a consumer controlled and operated drop-in center with four components: Drop-In Center, Self-Help Groups, Peer Support and a Friendship Line. It is a joint program of the Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association (DMDA) and the Mental Health Association of Greater St. Louis.

The Peer Run Drop-In Center is open 365 days a year. It provides a clean, safe, and drug- and alcohol-free environment with participatory decision making and self-help/mutual assistance. Support groups and educational programs are provided as are meals, social activities, clothes-washing facilities, and other amenities. The Center also operates a Friendship Line to combat feelings of social isolation and loneliness that occur among consumers. The peer support program matches individual Peer Support workers with consumers who would like a “buddy”. Together, the pair participates in recreational and social activities, and the consumer learns transportation skills.


For this study, 240 consumers were recruited from two traditional mental health providers: BJC Behavioral Health and Places for People and were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Both groups continued to receive traditional services and the experimental group were invited to attend the St. Louis Empowerment Center.

The effects of the consumer operated program on the outcomes listed above were assessed by three face-to-face interviews with consumers over the course of a year.