Advocacy Alert: Salinas, Mann Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Promote Peer-to-Peer Behavioral Health Services

February 8, 2024

via Andrea Salinas' website

On February 1, 2024, U.S. Representatives Andrea Salinas (OR-06) and Tracey Mann (KS-01) introduced the bipartisan Providing Empathetic and Effective Recovery (PEER) Support Act, legislation that will expand access to peer-to-peer support services for those struggling with mental health and substance use disorders. U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate, and U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) is an original cosponsor of the House bill.

"Mental health and substance use disorders can be very isolating. That is why peer support specialists are so important. These are experts with lived experience, allowing them to build authentic connections with those who are struggling right now," said Rep. Salinas. "Our bill would break down barriers to entry in the profession and better support folks who are already practicing. The road to recovery is long and difficult—and this legislation would make that process a little easier by providing support from those who have already been through it."

"Addressing mental health and substance abuse across the country is crucial to revitalizing communities and restoring families," said Rep. Mann. "Peer-to-peer support enables those with shared experiences to work towards recovery. Training additional peer support specialists will meet an increased need in our communities and offer more lifesaving resources for individuals seeking recovery."

Research shows that peer-to-peer support services can significantly decrease rates of substance abuse and reduce re-hospitalization for individuals with mental illnesses. Peer support specialists are qualified experts with lived experience of mental illness or substance use who are trained to help others with their recovery. However, while peer support specialists have become an important part of treatment and recovery teams, peer support specialists face significant barriers to entering or staying in the profession. The PEER Support Act would help break down those barriers and make it easier for people to work as peer support specialists.

Specifically, the PEER Support Act would:

  • Direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to revise the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system to create a distinct classification for peer support specialists to ensure accurate data reporting on the peer support specialist profession.
  • Codify the Office of Recovery in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to:
    • Provide leadership in the identification of new and emerging issues related to recovery support services;
    • Research and publish best practice recommendations to States and entities that employ peer specialists for training, certification, and supervision of peer support specialists;
    • Support ongoing professional development of peer support specialists;
    • Issue recommendations on the creation of career pathways for peer support specialists.
  • Instruct the Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the Department of Justice, to research states’ criminal background screening processes that may pose barriers to the certification or practice of peer support specialists, and to provide evidence-based recommendations for overcoming those barriers.

NBHAP was one of many organizations that endorsed this legislation.

Read the full release here.

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