Office of Behavioral Health Peer Support Specialist
What is a Peer Support Specialist?
A Peer Support Specialist is a person in recovery from a behavioral health condition (mental health, substance use, or co-occurring) who provides mentoring, guidance, and support services and offers their skills to others who are experiencing behavioral health challenges and receiving behavioral health services. The Peer Support Specialist’s role within the behavioral health system of care is to provide supportive services, working in conjunction with clinical treatment providers. While peer support services greatly enhance clinical services, they are not clinical in nature. Peer Support Specialists support individuals with behavioral health conditions in their recovery.
The individual providing peer support can perform a range of tasks to assist the person receiving services during the recovery process. Activities could include, but are not limited to, developing formal and informal supports, instilling confidence, assisting in the development of goals, serving as an advocate, mentor, or facilitator for resolution of issues and skills necessary to enhance and improve the health of a person with emotional, behavioral, or co-occurring disorders.
Peer Support Specialists can and should assist the clinical process by performing such duties as:
- Identifying goals
- Assisting with treatment planning
- Life skills coaching
- Resource referral
- Conducting recovery groups
- Assisting with discharge planning
Peer Support Specialists cannot provide clinical services such as:
- Medication management
- Psychosocial evaluations
- Diagnostic assessment
- Psychiatry services
- Conduct therapy groups
How does it work?
Peer Support Specialists use knowledge, skills, and experience, to help others work toward meaningful recovery from mental illness and/or substance use challenges. Additional information about Peer Services can be found on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, within the following resource: Recovery Community Services (RCSP) program can be found within their resource “What are Peer Recovery Support Services?”
Why it works
Peer support services are delivered by individuals who have common life experiences with the people they are serving. People with mental and/or substance use disorders have a unique capacity to help each other based on a shared affiliation and a deep understanding of this experience. In self-help and mutual support, people offer this support, strength, and hope to their peers, which allows for personal growth, wellness promotion, and recovery.
Per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Consumer-Operated Services, and Peer Support, is an evidence based practice (Consumer-Operated Services Evidence Based Practices Toolkit). Research has shown that peer support facilitates recovery and reduces health care costs. Peers also provide assistance that promotes a sense of belonging within the community. The ability to contribute to and enjoy one’s community is key to recovery and well-being. Another critical component that peers provide is the development of self-efficacy through role modeling and assisting peers with ongoing recovery through mastery of experiences and finding meaning, purpose, and social connections in their lives.
It is the policy of LDH and the OBH that the qualifications for PSS are consistent with national standards.
These standards include:
- Lived Experience
Peer Support Specialists must have lived experience with a behavioral health diagnosis. A behavioral health diagnosis can include a diagnosis with mental health challenges, addiction challenges, or co-occurring disorders.
- Educational Standards
Peer Support Specialists must have a minimum of a High School diploma or a GED. (A copy of highest diploma, degree and/or transcript must be submitted with application.)
- Age Requirements
Peer Support Specialists must be at least 18 years of age.
- Time in Recovery
Peer Support Specialists must have at least twelve (12) months of continuous demonstrated recovery as indicated by SAMHSA’s working definition of recovery.
The Office of Behavioral Health has established approved statewide trainings for Peer Support Specialists and makes every effort to ensure a minimum of ten trainings are provided each year. Trainings may be conducted virtually or in-person at various locations around the state. Capacity for the trainings are limited; therefore the application process is competitive. Upon successful completion of training, Peer Support Specialists will be deemed recognized by the state of Louisiana.
The training applications are attached here. Instructions for submitting the completed applications can be found on the document. If you have additional questions, please contact Mr. George Mills with The Extra Mile Region IV by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2023 LA Core Peer Support Specialist Training Dates (click here)
Peer Support Specialists must complete a minimum of ten (10) Continuing Education Units (CEU) per calendar year. Three (3) of these CEUs must be in the area of Ethics. The other seven (7) shall be in the core competencies related to peer support. Courses which are mandatory job trainings, such as blood borne pathogens, sexual harassment, or prohibited political activity, are not considered to be recovery oriented and will not be accepted towards the minimum continuing education requirement.
CEUs must be reported to the appropriate OBH identified staff on or before December 31st each calendar year in order for the Peer Support Specialist status to remain active. Peer Support Specialists are not required to report CEUs until the year following their initial training. CEUs and the Ethics Attestation Statement are to be reported using the following forms: Continuing Education Reporting Form, Ethics Attestation Statement. Submit the forms to OBH.Peers.Programs@LA.GOV with certificates of successful completion. For trainings that were not prior approved for Peer CEUs, please submit the attached form: RPSS Guidance for CEUs and Record Keeping and the certificate of completion.
In Louisiana, Peer Support Specialists (PSS) work in a variety of capacities throughout the behavioral health service system. While PSS provide vital roles in peer to peer programs which are not funded by Medicaid, there are several rehabilitation services outlined within the Behavioral Health Manual in which PSS are identified as a qualified provider type as long as they meet staffing qualifications to provide that service as identified within the Behavioral Health Services Provider Manual.
These services include:
- Community Psychiatric Support and Treatment
- Psychosocial Rehabilitation
- Crisis Intervention
- Assertive Community Treatment
- Addiction Services
Request for Information on Peer Support Services in Louisiana
The Louisiana Department of Health/Office of Behavioral Health recognizes the importance of Peer Support Specialists in the engagement and recovery process for behavioral health treatment. The use of trained, certified peers is a critical component to a recovery-oriented system of care and results in improvements in client engagement, treatment outcomes, and recovery. As an enhancement to traditional treatment services, peer support services allow for more effective and targeted interventions, resulting in improved care and an increased capacity of the system to serve a broader array of individuals. The LDH is seeking information through this Request for Information (RFI) from interested parties related to the training and the certification of peer support specialists to offer peer support services in Louisiana.
- Click here for the Complete Request for Information
- The following reference materials are available to aid in the development of a response to this RFI:
- Click here for OBH's Peer Support Specialist Code of Ethics
- Click here for Peer Support Specialist Eligibility
- Click here for the United States (US) Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report to Congressional Committees: Mental Health Leading Practices for State Programs to Certify Peer Support Specialists
- CMS Guidance Documents for Peer Support Services
- Click here for the CMS Medicaid Director Letter dated August 15, 2007
- Click here for the CMS Clarifying Guidance on Peer Support Services Policy dated May 1, 2013
- A virtual question and answer session will be available to potential respondents on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 from 2:00p.m. – 4:00p.m. which can be accessed on this day and time via the following link: https://ldhobhasstsecofc.zoom.us/j/93847188953?pwd=V0M1dUN1aUl2aktOQjE1VXFpay9LZz09.
- RFI on Peer Support Services in Louisiana Q&A
- RFI on Peer Support Services Presentation Q&A