SB 803 (Beall): Mental health services: Peer Support Specialist Certification – SUPPORT

February 19, 2020
The Honorable Jim Beall
California State Senator
California State Capitol, Room 2082
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: SB 803 (Beall): Mental health services: peer support specialist certification – SUPPORT

Dear Senator Beall: The California Association of Mental Health Peer Run Organizations (CAMHPRO) supports Senate Bill 806, which would establish a statewide certification program for peer support specialists and would provide the structure needed to maximize the federal match for peer services under Medi-Cal. CAMHPRO is proud to be a co-sponsor of SB 803.

CAMHPRO promotes the work and missions of peer-run organizations devoted to advocacy and empowerment for mental health consumers. CAMHPRO’s mission is to transform communities and the behavioral health care system throughout California to empower, support, and ensure the rights of consumers; eliminate stigma, and advance self-determination for all those affected by mental health issues.

In supporting a Peer Support Specialist Certification Program in California, CAMHPRO joins the formidable array of California organizations, counties and individuals advocating for growth in high quality peer/family support services and peer specialist career development. Through support of SB 803, we look to finally bring peer support specialist certification to California.

Programmatically, peer certification makes sense
Numerous research studies support the efficacy and cost effectiveness of peer specialist services. Peer services, as opposed to traditional services alone, lead to less inpatient services, decreased symptoms, increased coping skills and life satisfaction, reduced overall ongoing need for mental health services, and decreased substance use.

Across California, peers are already providing peer support services. However, there is no statewide scope of practice, standardized curriculum, training standards, supervision standards, or certification protocol. Few counties that provide peer support services require training prior to hire. The benefits of Peer Certification for peer support are obvious.

Peer certification:
  • Defines the service of peer support;
  • Provides a standardized scope of practice, values and ethics, and competencies;
  • Assures that practitioners receive standardized training and demonstrate competency;
  • Ensures that service recipients will receive the same quality of services regardless of where in California they live;
  • Provides a basis for the ability to bill Medi-Cal for services provided; and
  • Allows for portability of Certification between counties.
Peer Certification also makes good fiscal sense, and California is one of only two states in the nation without it.

In 2007, the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent a guidance letter to all State Medicaid Directors emphasizing, “peer support services are an evidence-based mental health model of care which consists of a qualified peer support provider who assists individuals with their recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders.” CMS encouraged states to establish a state certification process for training, credentialing, supervision and care coordination. (CMS, SMDL #07-011). This enables the use of federal Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) financial participation with a 50% match. Currently, 48 states, plus the District of Columbia and the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, have implemented protocols to certify peer specialists, enabling them to leverage Medicaid funds. However, California has not acted and Californians deserve better!

Initially funded by Department of Mental Health and then Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD), California began an in-depth and focused look at peer certification in 2011.Substantial grassroots work has been done toward peer certification since 2012 and substantial government funds have already been invested into developing peer certification in California.

SB 803 makes sense from both a policy and fiscal perspective and will provide more comprehensive assistance to people in need. CAMHPRO is proud to be part of a statewide movement to bring California up to speed with the rest of the nation in recovery and resiliency services through a state protocol for Medi-CAL billing and certification of peer support specialists.

Sincerely,
Sally Zinman
Executive Director
CAMHPRO
sallyzinman@gmail.com

United States Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Guidance Letter to State Medicaid Directors, SMDL #07-011, August 15, 2007.

Click to access SMD081507A.pdf