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:
- 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 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.
- 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.