The District of Columbia Department of Mental Health on June 6 begins its first course to train and certify a self-identified mental health consumer as a peer specialist. A peer specialist is a non-clinical consumer who, with specialized training, supports other individuals in mental health treatment and serves as a model for personal recovery.
Participants in the 70 hour training program will learn how to help other consumers develop life skills and goals, help monitor their progress, and help advocate for effective services. Along with class work, participants will be required to perform 80 hours of field experience at one of the District’s community based mental health providers.
“We recognize the value of peer to peer support for recovery,” said Stephen T. Baron, Director of the Mental Health Department. “Plus, this program gives a mental health consumer the opportunity to be trained in a specialized skill and to get a job.”
Mental health consumers already work in a variety of peer support roles in the District’s public mental health system. The new program will standardize training and allow DMH to take advantage of available federal funds to support their work.
Certified peer specialists represent a focus on an individual’s strength rather than an individual’s illness. The training was pioneered by the state of Georgia in 2001. Other states with certified peer specialist programs include Missouri, Florida and Wisconsin.
For additional information regarding peer specialist training or future classes, contact Vivi Smith, Director of the Office of Consumer and Family Affairs, at [email protected].