My Empowerment Days Presentation

I will be making a presentation at Empowerment Days next week based upon this position paper I helped to draft

For consumers of mental health services the support of Certified Peer Specialists has proven to be one of the most effective strategies for achieving and maintaining recovery.
Certified Peer Specialists provide consumers with emotional support, understanding, empathetic listening, and hope for a better future.  They serve as a role model that recovery is possible for all. They also provide practical assistance by teaching and supporting a person to access:
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Social networks
  • Crisis supports
  • Personal advocacy (self-help)
  • Education / employment
  • System Advocacy
Certified Peer Specialists have been shown, through numerous studies, to dramatically improve outcomes for consumers. The cost saving to mental health service providers has also been well documented.
The Problem
The majority of agencies and organizations used by mental health consumers have failed to integrate Certified Peer Specialists into the service system. Instead, the mental health system has maintained it’s over reliance on expensive, often less effective treatment options such as psychiatrists, hospitals and county-run crisis centers geared toward crisis management rather than crisis prevention and recovery.
For those agencies that have chosen to hire Certified Peer Specialists, there is a shortage in the workforce because training and preparing consumers to become Certified Peer Specialists has ended.  In these cases, we are now left with high demand and low supply.
The field of Certified Peer Specialist is still relatively new.  Because of that, there are no current standards or mandatory training for providers who employ Certified Peer Specialists This has created vast inconsistencies in Certified Peer Specialists job descriptions which have led some Certified Peer Specialists to be expected to perform duties outside of their scope of practice or the primary purpose of offering peer support. There is also a lack of consistent support, training and supervision.
The Solution
  • Adequately fund programs that teach consumers to become Peer Specialists which then prepares them to become certified via the State Certified Peer Specialist Certification Process.
  • Mandate the hire of paid Peer Specialists throughout the mental health delivery system and adjunct systems (including Department of Corrections, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and all HMO’s contracted by the Department of Health).
  • Ensure that Peer Specialists are paid a living wage and benefits.
·         Create a Certified Peer Specialist Employment Clearinghouse that can hire, supervise and further train Certified Peer Specialists, provide training and technical assistance to those who wish to contract for their services and continue to strengthen and enhance the role of Certified Peer Specialist.

Develop employer standards to assure that Certified Peer Specialists are being utilized supervised, trained and supported appropriately by those who wish to employ them directly.

4 thoughts on “My Empowerment Days Presentation

  1. Unfortunately, often times the police are not able to determine a mental health crisis. Weber County (near Salt Lake County) has Crisis trained deputies, but many of the cities don’t. I recall calling and specifically asking for a crisis trained deputy, The city, of course sent their own people out, which resulted in an arrest “for being an asshole” a thousand dollars in fines, and a terrifying weekend in jail for a family member. If they had only let the county come out, it may have been different.

    But the problem remains, as you noted in your blog, the prevention and access to services that focus on prevention. Even with medicare for a disorder, counseling services are still expensive and the local clinic has one regular staff member for counseling. A stable relationship with a therapist is a key ingredient in maintaining stability, and that is not available for the low income in our area. Those of us who cross that low income line have few services to rely on. Utah is one of the states that provide the least amount of services, relying on volunteer programs such a NAMI to pick up the slack. For a state who has a difficult time funding their own education programs, mental health services remain on the bottom of the list.

    Thank you for you posts.


  2. And yet, when you hear the political commentary from the talking heads on tv, you don’t hear about things like the difficulties of dealing with mental health in Utah. You don’t hear much about the role of government in helping people maintain themselves. In my role as a certified peer specialist, I try to avoid calling the police and do so as a last resort. I even successfully refused a supervisor’s request to call the police because I felt she was exercising poor judgment. In the end I was proven right.
    However there need to be more CIT trained officers available to help reduce wait times. I have noticed that these officers take their time in assessing situations and consider alternatives to transporting people.


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