A peer provider is defined by SAMHSA as “a person who uses his or her lived experience of recovery from mental illness and/or addiction, plus skills learned in formal training to deliver services in behavioral health settings to promote mind-body recovery and resiliency.” They are a growing subset of the workforce that are employed in behavioral health settings such as peer-run and operated recovery organizations as well as more traditional care settings such as mental health clinics, SUD treatment centers, psychiatric hospital, and inpatient facilities. They include certified peer specialists, peer support specialists, and/or recovery coaches, and are an emerging set of the workforce in prisons and jails, hospital emergency departments, and primary care settings. These organizations and institutions utilize numerous peer specialist models of recovery, which teach patients coping skills and offer support to help people experiencing mental health and SUD challenges.
Peer support workers provide a variety of services which help patients:
- Reduce symptoms and hospitalizations
- Increase social support and community participation
- Decrease the length of hospitalization stays and reduce costs of services
- Improve well-being, self-esteem, and social functioning
- Encourage better recovery outcomes
However, there is a lack of information about the organizational setting and roles of peer providers in the behavioral health workforce. This study builds on the BHWRC’s Year 3 study of scopes of practice (SOPs) for peer recovery specialists and use publicly available SAMHSA data to determine what types of mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment facilities are employing peer providers.
Despite community mental health settings and mental health (MH) service facilities being most likely to deploy peer services compared to other locations of behavioral health care, only 24% of all MH facilities in the U.S. offer peer service, with some residential settings offering peer services at a rate of 15%.
Substance use disorder (SDU) facilities provide peer services more frequently when compared to MH facilities and the range of facilities offering these services is higher in SUD facilities (50%-83%) than that of MH facilities (9%-35%). When comparing the number of facilities per 100,000 population in the U.S., there are a greater number of SUD facilities than MH facilities and the U.S. has a greater density of 3.69 SUD treatment facilities per 100,000 population, with 56% offering peer services.