A peer specialist is an individual with lived recovery experience who has been trained and certified to help their peers gain hope and move forward in their own recovery. As a person who has lived experience of a mental health condition, a peer specialist has valuable insights into what makes recovery possible and serves as a role model to the peers they serve.

The behavioral health workforce is expanding to include the evidence-based utilization of qualified peer specialists as part of a care team to facilitate strength-based wellness and improve quality of life. These benefits are evidenced by larger social support networks, and reduced hospitalizations, use of crisis services, and symptoms. Based on positive outcomes of peer support services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidelines for states wanting to bill for peer support services.

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DBSA strongly supports federal and state policies to expand and strengthen the peer workforce. Current federal law gives states the option to adopt peer specialists as providers under their state Medicaid plans but does not require that they do so. Peer specialist training and certification requirements are determined on a state-by-state basis. Over 75% of states currently fund peer specialist services through Medicaid. In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employs Veteran peer specialists to work in VA facilities.

There are numerous opportunities for advocates to get involved in expanding and strengthening peer support services. DBSA encourages you to visit your state’s Medicaid website to learn whether peer support services are already covered by Medicaid in your state. Learn how to assess the adequacy of peer support services.