Many providers, payors, and researchers in the substance use services field believe that peer recovery support is the future of behavioral health. Some states like New Mexico have implemented a robust system of Medicaid reimbursement for Certified Peer Support Workers (CPSW) with persons having serious mental illness, chronic substance use disorders, or co-occurring conditions (see the NM Behavioral Health Policy and Billing Manual, 2019).
Peer support services are delivered by individuals who have common life experiences with the people they are serving (retrieved from: SAMHSA.gov). A Certified Peer Support Worker (CPSW) is an individual in recovery with mental health and/or substance use conditions who has successfully completed a training class and a volunteer or paid experience and passed a certification exam. CPSWs use their experience to inspire hope and instill in others a sense of empowerment. They are trained to deliver an array of support services and to help others identify and navigate systems to aid in recovery. Through wisdom from their own lived experience, they inspire hope and belief that recovery is possible. The following are some examples of peer support services:
Providing support for clients’ physical health conditions or concerns;
Giving assistance with independent living skills (e.g., money management problem solving, establishing boundaries, reducing stress);
Working together to develop socialization and recreational skills;
Setting a plan to provide aid and comfort to a person in crisis; and
Developing recovery and resiliency skills.
The Certified Peer Support Specialist may function as a recovery coach, providing many different types of support, including lived and learned experiences. Services occur individually or with consumers in groups who support each other to optimize learning new skills. This skill enhancement then augments the effectiveness of other treatment and recovery support initiatives. It focuses on individual’s wellness, ongoing recovery and resiliency, relapse prevention, and chronic disease management.
Peer recovery support services activities include, but are not limited to:
screening/assessing, engaging, educating, coaching, and mentoring;
emotional support that demonstrates empathy, caring, or concern to bolster the person’s esteem and confidence;
sharing knowledge and information or providing life skills training;
provision of concrete assistance to help others accomplish tasks;
facilitation of contacts with other people to promote learning of social and recreational skills, creating community and acquiring a sense of belonging; and/or
offer input/feedback to aid in self-evaluation of one’s own strengths and personal resources.
The resources below offer more information on the evidenced-based best practices of peer support for recovery, resiliency, and rehabilitation. The NM OPRE website describes how to become a Certified Peer Support Worker (CPSW). The Amador materials are examples of what a local non-profit community health center is doing with peers involved in substance use disorder (SUD) services. Amador also has a Peer Recovery Navigator Helpline at 575.323.2277(mobile) to assist persons to enter, remain in or return to substance use treatment or to transition from one provider to another one.