Benefits of Peer Support
Peer support is non-clinical and recovery focused. Non-clinical means peers do not offer professional services, make assessments or dispense expert opinions.
Peer Specialist Services
Peer specialists can be found in local mental health authorities, peer run service providers, local behavioral health authorities, state hospitals, substance use recovery community-based organizations, recovery organizations and treatment organizations.
Common tasks performed by peer specialists:
- Helping people self-advocate
- Connecting people to resources and work
- Goal setting
- Facilitating support groups
- Outreach and engagement
- Face-to-face recovery coaching
- Telephone peer support
Common organizational programs where mental health peer specialists work: community mental health centers, mental health rehabilitation services, therapeutic recreation, or socialization, day support, assertive community treatment.
Much of what a peer specialist provider does can be funded under general revenue and grants. Research shows that this non-reimbursable support can save costs by curbing crisis events, decreasing emergency room visits and potentially decreasing state hospitalization rates.
Peer specialists do not need to be certified to provide mental health rehabilitation services.
Peer specialist provider services can also be billed under Medicaid:
- 1915i – Adult Mental Health
- Youth Empowerment Services
Peer specialists can also be providers of mental health rehabilitative services
- Medication training and support
- Psychosocial rehabilitation services
- Skills training and development
- Day program for acute needs
- Crisis intervention
Research and Results
Nationally, peer support is an emergent field, thus long-term studies quantifying impact and return on investment are becoming more available, and current evidence suggests that peer support and coaching:
- Reduces the admissions and days spent in hospitals and increases time in the community.
- Reduces the use of acute services.
- Increases engagement in outpatient treatment, care planning and self-care.
- Improves social functioning.
- Increases hope, quality of life and satisfaction with life.
- Reduces substance use.
- Reduces depression and demoralization.
- Improves chances for long-term recovery.
- Increases rates of family unification.
- Reduces average services cost per person.
In Texas, one long-term study focusing on substance use disorder peer specialists, also called recovery coaches, demonstrated exciting results at 12 months:
- Housing status improved, with 54% of long-term coaching participants owning or renting their own living quarters after 12 months, compared to 32% at enrollment.
- Overall employment increased to 58% after 12 months from 24% at enrollment.
- Average wages increased to $879 per month after 12 months from $252 at enrollment.
- Healthcare utilization dropped after 12 months of recovery coaching:
- Outpatient visits dropped to 815 visits from 4118 at enrollment
- Inpatient care days dropped to 1117 days from 9082 at enrollment
- Emergency room visits dropped to 146 from 426 at enrollment
In total, recovery coaching saved $3,422,632 in healthcare costs, representing a 72% reduction in costs over 12 months.