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New CA Legislation May Help With ‘Peer Support Specialists’

We always get excited about positive recovery changes happening in our home state of California. And this month, progress may be made with an action that would allow for “peer support specialist” availability for those in recovery, which would be reimbursable via Medicaid.

What is a peer support specialist? Per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (also known as SAMHSA), they are “people who have been successful in the recovery process and help others experiencing similar situations.”

Our state reportedly has more that 6,000 peer support specialists available, but currently their service fees must come from out of pocket. This differs from most regions in the continental U.S., with only California and South Dakota lacking a reimbursable certification program.

And the truth of the matter is, a program like this works. SAMHSA is a strong advocate for this initiative, especially because having affordable Medicaid support would open the door to millions of Californians in need.

“Through shared understanding, respect, and mutual empowerment, peer support workers help people become and stay engaged in the recovery process and reduce the likelihood of relapse,” org reps explained on their site. “Peer support services can effectively extend the reach of treatment beyond the clinical setting into the everyday environment of those seeking a successful, sustained recovery process.”

The legislation comes courtesy of Senator Jim Beall. Titled SB-10, it would establish a clean and trackable certification process for local specialists; which include training classes, continuing education and a code of ethics. Funding would potentially come from Proposition 63 (also known as the Mental Health Services Act), which would aid and develop the program.

So far, the momentum is off to a good start. SB-10 passed in the State Senate with a unanimous vote in May. Now it is off to the California Assembly Health Committee. It also reportedly has the support of Governor Gavin Newsom.

“For many people, having a connection to someone else who’s had this experience proves vital,” Newsom mental health advisor Dr. Thomas Insel told reporters.

And on that note, it also worth highlighting that peer support specialists can assist with those battling depression, anxiety and a host of other mental health issues. Though there are still a few more hurdles to pass, signs are encouraging that SB-10 could indeed become a reality.

We are certainly excited to hear and share this news. Hopefully it will continue to improve recovery and mental health initiatives in our state.