Join Us: Hill Day at Home on October 19
Ready to take your mental health advocacy to the next level? Join us for Hill Day at Home on Oct. 19 to help spotlight legislative solutions to our nation’s mental health crises, stay informed, connect with experts, and make a mark as a mental health advocate.
DBSA advocates have been enthusiastic participants in the National Council for Mental Wellbeing’s Hill Day since 2011. Last year, 42 DBSA advocates participated. Many more DBSA participants have the opportunity to engage because the event is virtual again this year. To register, click here. Be sure to indicate your involvement with DBSA when you register.
Your Voice Can Make a Difference
After the engaging and encouraging sessions on Oct. 19 about how to put your advocacy into action, you’ll have the opportunity to practice your new skill set. We will be sending out a series of action alerts around our key Hill Day issues:
- Promoting Effective and Empowering Recovery Services in Medicare (PEERS) Act (H.R. 2767/S. 2144)
- Fulfilling the Promise of 988, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which includes:
- Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act (H.R. 4323/S. 2069)
- Behavioral Health Crisis Services Expansion Act (S. 1902)
Be on the lookout for those as well as for opportunities to engage through our social media platforms via the links at the bottom of this article.
DBSA Works to Expand Critical Mental Healthcare Services
The mental health workforce shortage has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced by providers’ inability to meet the increased demand for services. These concerns are not new: according to recent data, over 100 million people live in a mental health professional shortage area, with 30 million people living in counties where access to mental health treatment is completely unavailable. As a nation, we must employ our current workforce as best we can while continuing to recruit and retain the next generation of health care workers. Key legislation would immediately expand access to life-saving mental health care for Medicare beneficiaries by allowing Medicare to reimburse providers for their services.
The Promoting Effective and Empowering Recovery Services (PEERS) in Medicare Act (H.R. 2767/S. 2144) allows for the participation of peer support specialists in providing integrated behavioral health services to Medicare beneficiaries. Additionally, the legislation provides for a comprehensive definition of peer support specialists in the Medicare program.
This bill is a critical step forward but does not solve the nation’s long-term workforce shortage alone. Work remains to create pathways and incentives for peers to enter these careers and expand access to services. We stand ready to work with Congress to create those pathways to ensure our nation has the workforce in place to respond to the growing need for these services.
Why do we need to expand the Medicare mental health workforce?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recognizes peer support as an effective and evidence-based practice, making peer support specialists a vital part of the care team. Allowing Medicare beneficiaries access to state credentialed peer support specialists will expand community-based mental health services and reduce costly hospitalizations for Medicare beneficiaries.
The number of Americans over the age of 65 is projected to nearly double in the next decade. Of this age group, one-in-three live alone while more than one million live in institutional settings, most commonly a nursing home or retirement facility. Nearly one in five older adults experience a mental health condition yet are less likely than younger people to seek treatment. Allowing peer support specialists to work alongside clinicians offers a solution for this growing patient population.
DBSA Peer Apprentice Program Supports the New Legislation
People experiencing a mental health condition deserve to have someone they can turn to, free of judgment, who understands what we’ve been through and knows what we’ve felt, to seek guidance, support, and a sense of community and belonging. I want to be that resource to others to get the most out of life in ways that are meaningful to them. Overcoming challenges as a community can be a healing and rewarding process for all. – Nick P., a student in DBSA’s Peer Specialist Apprentice Program.
The Promoting Effective and Empowering Recovery Services (PEERS) in Medicare Act (H.R. 2767/S. 2144) will require state credentialed peer specialists to fill these positions. The pathway to a state credential includes taking an approved peer specialist course and, in many cases, one full year of supervised experience providing peer support services.
I sought healing through an intensive outpatient program for post-traumatic stress disorder along with other Veterans. We cried together. We laughed together. We made it through, together. This taught me the value of peer support and is why peer support has become my life’s mission. I want to be an ear to listen, a resource for help, a voice for those who cannot speak, and support people like me and my community. – Nicole B., a student in DBSA’s Peer Specialist Apprentice Program.
While DBSA provides a 76-hour Peer Specialist course, the full year of supervision is an obstacle for many peers. Recognizing this as an obstacle, DBSA has risen to the challenge by introducing the DBSA Peer Specialist Apprentice Program. In an inaugural two-year apprenticeship program funded by SAMHSA, DBSA will enroll apprentices in the DBSA Peer Specialist course and provide supervised training and educational support. The apprentice program will serve as a vehicle for peer specialist apprentices to gain the necessary supervised hours to apply for the Illinois Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) credential. Apprentices will gain experience in mental health advocacy, peer mentoring, peer recovery, and wellness support. The inaugural apprenticeship cohort began on August 2, 2021.
I battled bipolar, anxiety, and OCD my entire life without even knowing I was sick. Eventually, my bipolar grew out of control and I found life unlivable. I could not function. Then my friend took me to the ER; I couldn’t go alone. Now that I had a diagnosis, I had a way to proceed toward regaining control of my life. This is one example of a time I’ve been in dire need and someone has lent me a hand. I want to help others in the way I was aided. Here, as a peer support specialist, I’ve found a place to do that. – Wayne H., a student in DBSA’s Peer Specialist Apprentice Program.
Stay tuned for updates on legislation and the progress of this exciting program.
Don’t miss this opportunity to watch “The Patient Perspective of Challenges, Purpose, and Hope with Continuing Depression,” an interactive discussion produced by NeuroCareLive in partnership with DBSA. Learn how other peers worked with their clinicians to identify treatment options centered around their preferred outcomes. Known as “shared decision making,” this collaborative process between the peer and their health care team has been proven to achieve better peer-centric results.
People living with major depressive disorder, advocates, and their caregivers are invited to view this hour-long program.
The expert panel led by a psychiatrist, primary care provider, and peer advocate, explore:
- Following “The Process”: Your Role in Treatment Decision-making
- Tackling Symptoms of Depression
- Purpose and Hope
DBSA Vice President of Advocacy Phyllis Foxworth was invited to submit testimony to the House Veterans Affairs Committee regarding HR. 4575, The Veteran Peer Specialist Act of 2021, for consideration at their October 13th hearing on the bill. This legislation seeks to expand the peer specialist program to all VA medical centers over a five-year period. DBSA also spearheaded the release of a letter of support through the Mental Health Liaison Group that was endorsed by more than 40 national mental health organizations calling for the passage of this legislation.
UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report will focus on mental health and well-being for the first time in its 40-year history. Members of Congress, community partners, UNICEF experts, and youth advocates held a launch event for the report on October 13th.
Thursday, October 21 is Global Peer Support Celebration Day! Created in 2014 by our friends at the National Association of Peer Supporters, the event uplifts the work of the peer support workforce and the importance of providing peer support to all those who live with mood disorders. For more information about this activity,
DBSA is conducting a survey of its various supporters and identified our advocacy program as a key priority. We want to use this opportunity to further explore ways that we can further enhance our advocacy efforts on your behalf in advancing the key policy issues on behalf of those who live with mood disorders. This confidential survey is the beginning of that process. Your input is essential to ensure we provide relevant tools in the months ahead. Please take the survey here.
To maintain anonymity, once you complete the survey, please click this link where you may enter your email address for a chance to win one of five $25 Amazon Gift Cards. The survey is estimated to take 10 minutes to complete.
Register for DBSA’s Peer Specialist Course
DBSA’s 5-week course can help you prepare for certification as a Peer Specialist. Through a blend of individual learning, group discussions, presentations, and role-playing, you will gain the skills you need to help others move toward wellness. To learn more about DBSA’s courses, please visit our webpage.
2022 Peer Specialist Courses:
- January 3 to February 4, 2022
- April 4 to May 6, 2022
Your Voice Can Make a Difference
Please support this work by forwarding this message to colleagues, family, and friends who are passionate about this cause to assist us in this grassroots effort to make our voice heard.
To continue to receive communications about issues that support access to quality mental health care,