What type of certification do Certified Peer Specialists have?

There are currently 46 states that have developed certification for peer support. The other four states are working towards that goal. California is one of the states that has not yet developed a state credential, even though they have more peers support workers than any other state (approximately 6000). A barrier to having peer support reimbursable by private health plans and Medicare is a lack of standardization from state to state. Required training and prior experience can vary significantly in each state. Some state credentialing programs are actually certificate systems in that there is a required training without an examination. States with certification require peer support workers to have the credential in order to provide services that are funded by the state, including Medicaid.

Mental Health America (MHA) has developed one solution to these problems. In 2017, MHA introduced the first advanced level national certification, The MHA National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) credential. This certification requires a significantly higher number of hours of experience (3000 hours) than any state credential. It also requires the highest level of knowledge base and skill sets in the country. The NCPS credential requires a greater depth of knowledge on issues, such as trauma-informed peer support and working in a clinical environment, than other certifications. It was developed along with an accredited certifying organization, The Florida Certification Board. The process for developing the credential followed accreditation guidelines. It does not replace state certifications where available; in fact, it requires individuals in states with certification to have the state credential before they can apply for the NCPS. It is a test-based certification in that it does not require a specific training, but does require applicants to pass an advanced level 125-question examination.

For more information on the MHA NCPS, please visit this page. The National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) offers a National Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist (NCPRSS) credential that is primarily substance use oriented, although it does address co-occurring mental health disorders. It is an entry level certification, requiring 200 hours of supervised experience. It is recognized by Optum, a national healthcare organization, for reimbursement of certain services. For detailed information on state certifications, please visit Doors for Wellbeing Technical Assistance Center, sponsored by SAMHSA.

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