In 2020, California passed a law (Senate Bill 803) that made it possible for certified peer support specialists to become Medi-Cal providers who are eligible for Medi-Cal reimbursement through county mental health plans and substance use disorder plans (behavioral health plans).
Put simply, a peer is a person we identify with in some capacity. This can include anything from age to gender to sexual orientation to shared language. In behavioral health, a peer is usually used to refer to someone who shares the experience of living with a mental health condition and/or substance use/misuse. In that narrow context, any two people living with those conditions are peers. In reality, however, most people are far more specific about whom they rely on for peer support. Trust and compatibility are extremely important factors.
Peer support is the “process of giving and receiving encouragement and assistance to achieve long-term recovery. California Medi-Cal Peer Support Specialists offer emotional support, share knowledge, teach skills, provide practical assistance, and connect people with resources, opportunities, and communities of support. In behavioral health, Peer Support Specialists offer their unique lived experience with mental health conditions to provide support focused on advocacy, education, mentoring, and motivation.
California Medi-Cal Peer Support Specialists play many roles in supporting people living with mental health conditions and/or in substance use/misuse recovery. They facilitate educational groups and peer support groups. Peer Support Specialists may act as bridges linking people to services as they transition from hospitals or jails into the community. They also work one-on-one as role models, mentors, coaches, and advocates and support people in developing individualized wellness plans.
California Medi-Cal Peer Support Specialists go by many titles and can work in many different settings. Many peers have additional training and certification that demonstrate their skills and knowledge. Combined with their lived experience and ability to engage and connect with peers, California Medi-Cal Peer Support Specialists are a dynamic and growing group of individuals who continue to transform lives and systems.
To learn about Core Competencies for Peer Providers,
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Rexanne Irizarry, Behavioral Health Peer Specialist Program Manager