The Indispensable Role of Peer Support in the Journey to Well-being

Beacon Health Options creates systems of care that embrace recovery and resiliency. We weave this approach throughout our behavioral health services – from program components to innovative alternatives for members and their families to our own corporate culture. Our commitment as champions of hope and recovery goes beyond managing clinical care. We recognize that people with mental illness or addiction disorders benefit greatly from working with others who have lived similar experiences and reached a significant level of recovery.

This is why our Public Sector Wellness and Recovery program features Peer Support Specialists. These individuals empower members to define and pursue their own recoveries, connect them with community-based resources and work collaboratively with their clinicians.

Who is a Peer Support Specialist?

A Peer Support Specialist has:

  • Lived experience and achieved a significant level of personal recovery
  • The insight and maturity to be a guide and mentor
  • A passion for advocacy and empowerment

Our Peer Support Specialists undergo formal training in Motivational Interviewing, Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) and living with certain chronic medical conditions. They also learn how to promote whole- person wellness in accordance with the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Eight Dimensions of Wellness, including:

  • Emotional
  • Environmental
  • Financial
  • Intellectual
  • Occupational
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Spiritual

Unique to the industry, our Peer Support Specialists are often members of clinical care teams. They engage, educate and empower members and their families to connect with support services, community resources and advocacy assistance.

Engaging with Beacon Health Options’ Peer Support Specialists

When members call our Peer and Family Warm Lines or speak with a Peer Support Specialist face-to-face, they are connecting with someone who provides emotional support, averts personal crises and helps the member cope with behavioral health challenges. These specialists excel at engaging members by sharing their own stories of recovery from mental health and substance abuse.

Our Peer Support Specialists in Action

Here are some examples of the ways our peers positively impact individuals across the country:

  • Warm Lines for crisis, referral, and resource sharing in Georgia, Illinois and Washington D.C. In Illinois, Illinois Mental Health Collaborative has provided Warm Line services for seven years to over 30,000 members with an overall satisfaction rate of 97%.
  • Peer and Family Support services that help individuals and their families by combatting stigma and building resiliency. Mental health centers through our Colorado Health Partnership have provided peer services for ten years. A 2014 survey of individuals served indicated over 79% felt more capable of taking care of their responsibilities and 97.3% felt their peer wanted to help them. Staff peers at our Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership contributed to a 57% reduction in psychiatric inpatient days for children transitioning to a more appropriate level of care. At the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership (MBHP), our Peer Bridgers facilitate transition to appropriate, community-based care. In Nevada, peers working with care managers employ an integrated approach that promotes shared decision making and personal responsibility, resulting in significantly reduced inpatient utilization. Our peers in Georgia provide assistance to individuals in developing a person-directed vision of health and wellness, encompassing community support. Alongside the Intensive Care Manager, our Washington, D.C. Peer Support Specialist meets bi-weekly on complex cases with a team comprised of the Nurse Case Manager, Medical Case Managers, the individual and her support system to address barriers to appropriate care.
  • Support for Peer-Run Programs that expand the reach of our peers: Maryland peers outreach to 26 peer-run recovery organizations throughout the state that support individuals with mental health and substance use disorders. MBHP supports the Massachusetts Leadership Academy, designed for peers taking on key roles in the community, as well as Recovery Forums throughout the state. In New York, our Consumer Education Specialist for member Health and Recovery Plans (HARPs) works with peer-run and other organizations to support our integrated program. In Connecticut, we work with many peer-run advocacy organizations, including CT Hearing Voices Network and CT Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR). Beacon works with the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network that operates peer-supported wellness and respite centers.