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:
Assisting with treatment planning
Life skills coaching
Conducting recovery groups
Assisting with discharge planning
Peer Support Specialists cannot provide clinical services such as:
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:
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.
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.)
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 a statewide training for Peer Support Specialists.
This training was developed by Recovery Opportunity Center of Arizona.
This is a 2 week, 76-hour training. There are 8 hours of class work and several hours of homework daily. There is also a written midterm and written and practical final exam.
Trainings are conducted on a quarterly basis and are rotated to various locations around the state.
Capacity for the training is limited to 20 participants; therefore the application process is extremely competitive. Upon completion of training, Peer Support Specialists will be deemed credentialed by the state of Louisiana.
The training application is attached here: Application. Instructions for submitting the completed applications can be found on the document.
If you have additional questions, please contact George Mills by email at:
Continuing Education (CEU's)
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) will be in the competencies related to tenets of 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. Peer Support Specialists are not required to report CEUs until the year following their initial training.
CEUs are to be reported using the reporting forms found on our page Trainings and CEU's
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
Assertive Community Treatment
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