A growing body of research shows that substance use disorder (SUD) peer services can be an asset to individuals along the recovery continuum and aid behavioral health providers in achieving positive outcomes, including:
- improved treatment engagement and satisfaction with services,
- navigating recovery outside of the four walls of the office,
- decreased use of emergency services and criminal legal system involvement, and
- greater housing stability
As of July 1, 2019, Washington state added what’s referred to as a “peer benefit” to the state Substance Use Medicaid plan matching the benefit in the Mental Health system of care. This means that Certified Peer Counselors (CPCs) working at a licensed behavioral health agency are able to bill Medicaid for their SUD services, strengthening the overall support team for people seeking behavioral health recovery.
One critical component of getting into recovery is accessing support services that help. An ongoing challenge in our region, and across the country, is a shortage of behavioral health providers. CPCs provide an opportunity to bring in another discipline to help address much needed staffing supports.
Many agencies and people seeking behavioral health care can benefit from adding peers to their team — and many people in recovery already may be well-suited to become Certified Peer Counselors! However, there’s a lack of widespread awareness and understanding of what CPCs can do and how to pay for their services.
What do peer counselors do?
Certified peer counselors (CPCs) work with their youth, adults, and the parents of children receiving mental health or substance use disorder services. Drawing upon their own experiences, they help peers find hope and support in their recovery journey. A peer’s own life experience uniquely equips them to provide a shared sense of purpose, support, encouragement, and resources to those with mental health or substance use disorder challenges so they can move forward in their recovery.
Why are peer counselors an important resource in behavioral health recovery?
Peer support offers a bridge between individuals with SUD, the agency and a person’s recovery journey by creating personal, supportive relationships with clients. This peer support is often the ‘missing link’, because it can enhance engagement in treatment among individuals in substance use disorder services. These peer counselors often serve as an agency’s recovery and community resource expert and can help link people to services that address important social determinants of health like healthcare, housing, education, and employment.
What makes a peer counselor “certified”?
For an SUD peer to achieve certification they must complete 40 hours of state-approved training, pass a standardized certification exam, a background check, and become an agency-affiliated counselor through the Washington Department of Health.
Interested in learning more about becoming a peer, or bringing peer services to behavioral health agencies? Join us on February 25th for KCRC Presents on this very topic!
In collaboration with our partner, King County Behavioral Health and Recovery Division, we’ll provide a closer look into the SUD Peer Benefit. We’ll cover topics like the value and role of peers, billable services, how to incorporate peer services into agencies, and hear from experts working as CPCs as well as agencies who employ them. For more information on becoming a Certified Peer Specialist, visit the Washington State Health Care Authority or read their FAQ page.
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