The Compeer Story

The Mental Health Association’s Adopt a Patient Program was founded in 1973 and was the precursor of Compeer Rochester.  Rochesterian Bernice Skirboll (pictured) got involved in Adopt a Patient in 1975 after recovering from a near-fatal automobile accident. During her long rehabilitation, she discovered the healing power of friendship, and vowed to make a difference in others’ lives. In 1977, Bernice transformed Adopt a Patient into the community-based Compeer model. Skirboll served as Executive Director from Compeer’s inception through 2006. Under her leadership, Compeer grew from a small program in Rochester to an internationally recognized mental wellness model and organization—one that has demonstrated solid results  and that has been replicated around the globe.

Today, the Compeer Rochester team of dedicated staff, Board and volunteers carries forward the founder’s vision and mission to provide healing friendship to community members living with mental illness—and to shatter the stigma of mental illness.

The Compeer Timeline


Mental Health Association starts the Adopt a Patient program, established at the state psychiatric hospital. Our founder Bunny Skirboll joined them in 1975.


Founder Bernice Skirboll changes the name of Adopt a Patient to Compeer (Companion + Peer = Compeer); Compeer becomes a community-based agency serving mental health clinics in the community.


The New York State Office of Mental Health supports expansion of Compeer to other New York State communities. The Adult Program is established.  


Compeer is funded by the New York State Office of Mental Health to serve youth ages 6 to 18. 


Compeer establishes its first international affiliate, in Sydney, Australia.


Compeer Rochester receives a federal grant for the Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents Program.


The Compeer supportive friendship/mentoring model is recognized by the American Psychological Association as a Best Practice for Recovery.


Compeer Rochester partners with the Rochester Veterans Outreach Center to provide peer to peer mentoring and support to returning military members. This is the birth of CompeerCORPS. 


The Compeer model has been recognized as an evidence-based model by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). We are listed in the National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices.


Compeer celebrates its 40th anniversary with a new logo and a renewed commitment to serving people in our community living with mental illness.


CompeerCORPS joins forces with the Monroe County Veterans Services Agency to expand and enhance its work with community Veterans through the Private Joseph Dwyer Program and Fund.

Compeer Inc. (International)

Compeer, Inc. is an international organization that provides support and outreach to 50 other local Compeer programs around the United States and the world. In addition, Compeer Inc. works globally to build knowledge, understanding, and engagement around the issues of mental illness and wellness. Compeer Rochester is the founding affiliate of Compeer, Inc.

Visit the Compeer, Inc. web site: