Peer talking

Calling All Peers: Learn and Build Your Skills with Peer Support ECHO

Publication Date: Oct 11, 2019

In communities across the country, Peer Recovery Specialists are helping others access treatment and recovery support services. As people in long-term recovery, peers bring their own lived experience and knowledge to help others navigate life outside of the clinical setting.  Peers help people become and stay engaged in a recovery process and, research shows, reduce the likelihood of a return to use. 

Peer Recovery Specialists bring valuable skills to the organizations where they work. Using peer recovery support services reduces:

  • the number of admissions and days spent in hospitals, 
  • use of emergency departments and detoxification centers, and 
  • the average service costs per person. 

Additionally, Peer Recovery Specialists improve social connections and hope, quality of life, and engagement in clinical services.

With the majority of people with mental illness and/or substance use disorders going untreated and the growing demand for high-quality, long term services, peer recovery support services fill vital roles to provide services in the community and address workforce shortages in the behavioral healthcare system. Medicaid benefit sets in 39 states include reimbursement for peer services, and peers are now working in not only behavioral healthcare settings but criminal justice and emergency services environments as well. 

While training and certification processes vary by state and organization, SAMHSA’s Core Competencies for Peer Workers in Behavioral Health (2015) “identifies the critical knowledge, skills and abilities needed by anyone who provides peer support services to people with or in recovery from a mental health or substance use condition.” Nationally, we are seeing an emphasis on standardizing certification requirements and scope of practices for peer recovery support services.

As the peer workforce grows, so does the need for recovery-oriented training, advanced certifications, peer-specific continuing education opportunities, and peer alliance networks. With our focus on bringing training and intensive technical assistance to the behavioral healthcare workforce, the Great Lakes ATTC is taking steps to meet the growing demand by partnering with recovery community organizations, community-based programs, and clinical behavioral healthcare providers that are embedding peer recovery support services. We currently offer a course on peer supervision, have added a recovery-oriented focus to our Motivational Interviewing training, and are hosting a variety of CEU opportunities for the peer workforce. (Visit the Great Lakes ATTC website for more information.) 

Peer Support Project Echo 

ECHO logoEnter Project Echo (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), an innovative training platform that allows peers to connect and collaborate with each other online, in real-time, via Zoom. Project Echo first launched in 2003 at the University of New Mexico to expand treatment for hepatitis C in rural communities. Today, hundreds of Project ECHOs operate around the globe to address a wide array of diseases. In the United States, a top category for Project ECHOs is substance use disorder treatment. A core principle of Project ECHO, “case-based Learning,” allows participants to discuss and solve complex, real-life scenarios together.

Wayside Recovery Center and Great Lakes ATTC: The First Project ECHO for Peer Services 

Wayside Recovery CenterIn 2019, Wayside Recovery Center in Minnesota received a Project ECHO grant to form the first ECHO focused on peer recovery support services. The Great Lakes ATTC has partnered with Wayside on PS ECHO to cast a wider net and unite peers from across the Great Lakes region to share experiences, problem-solve real-life cases, and network with others in the field. The first half of each hour-long lunchtime session presents a case-study or a peer-focused subject matter expert. The second half of the session is dedicated to discussion and networking. The PS ECHO offers ongoing learning to keep the peer support workforce improving and updated on the latest research and best practices in the field.
Please join us for the next call! 

PS Echo Call Schedule 

The PS ECHO takes place on the second and fourth Thursdays each month, 12:00-1:00pm CT. To receive the Zoom link to join the call, contact Lucia Diaz-French, lucia.diaz-french@waysiderc.org

For more information on the Great Lakes ATTC training and technical assistance for the peer workforce, contact Kris Kelly at Kris.kelly@wisc.edu

Related resources from across the ATTC Network: