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What are peer services?
Peer support programs provide an opportunity for consumers who have achieved significant recovery to assist others in their recovery journeys. Peer specialists model recovery, teach skills and offer supports to help people experiencing mental health challenges lead meaningful lives in the community. Peer specialists promote recovery; enhance hope and social networking through role modeling and activation; and supplement existing treatment with education, empowerment, and aid in system navigation1.
Why are peer services important?
Research shows that the use of peer specialists, allows states to save mental health program dollars by reducing hospitalizations and other emergency interventions, and increases peoples participation in the community. And people with mental illness who are helped by peers tend to experience more thorough and longer-lasting recoveries2.
Following pioneering work in Georgia, an increasing number of states are successfully implementing independent peer support services programs that bill Medicaid directly. At least 30 states consider peer services a Medicaid reimbursable service2.
What do peer specialists do?
Peer support specialists work in a variety of roles that include but are not limited to:
- independent peer support
- case management
- peer wellness coaching
- education and advocacy
- active participants on treatment teams in a full range of clinical settings, including crisis services
- peer navigator or bridgers—helping people to navigate community services and supports
- peer-run support groups and warm lines
1) Optum Health , (n.d.). Enhancing consumer-centered recovery: Building programs, finding solutions, and expanding services. Retrieved from website: http://www.optumhealth.com/~/media/OptumHealth/Podcast/Pdfs/Publications/WP-Enhancing-Consumer-Centered-Recovery.pdf
2) Vestal, C. (2013, September 11). "peers" seen easing mental health worker shortage. Kaiser Health News. Retrieved from http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/stories/2013/september/11/peer-mental-health-workers.aspx
National Peer Specialist Certification
Mental Health America is developing a national, accredited certification for peer support. Learn more here.