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Certified peer support specialists perform unique activities (USA)

October 18, 2012

A recent report examining the experience of Certified Peer Specialists (CPSs) in Kansas mental health centers confirms the unique services these staff provide, and also shows a high degree of satisfaction in their jobs.

Certified Peer Specialists (CPSs) are relatively new to the mental health sector. Thirty states have developed training criteria for peer specialists and sixteen states recognize them as professionals for the purpose of Medicaid reimbursement. The average age of a CPS is 47 years, and the majority interviewed (75 per cent) had more than high school education.

The study was done to explore what activities are being performed by CPSs, and the level of understanding and acceptance this new role has gained in the mental health sector. The most frequent job-related activity of the CPSs was assisting consumers to make independent choices, and sharing their own story of recovery.

Two groups of study participants were formed: one group had worked previously in a mental health centre (35 subjects) and the other group was composed of people who had not (24 subjects). The two groups were formed in part, to determine if the designation of Certified Peer Specialist defined a unique role that provided services and supports different from those performed before certification. Researchers also believed it was important to ensure that the activities of the CPSs were in fact, unique and legitimately qualified as a reimbursable service under Medicaid, and not just a repetition of similar services offered under other positions.

While some aspects of the work performed by CPSs were similar to those held in previous jobs, the primary functions of the role were significantly different.

In all measures, including job satisfaction, work integration, and organizational support, the study participants indicated that they were highly satisfied. The two areas in which they scored lowest, were satisfaction with pay and opportunities for advancement. The authors note that this may be because the role is new within mental health.

To read the online abstract, “An Examination of the Integration of Certified Peer Specialists into Community Mental Health Centers,” go to or read the full article in the Community Mental Health Journal (2012) 48:477- 481 by Grant, Reinhart, Wituk and Meissen.

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