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Peer support

The Health Care Authority's (HCA) Peer Support Program trains and qualifies behavioral health consumers as certified peer counselors (CPCs). By "behavioral health" we mean both mental health and substance use disorder consumers.

A "consumer" is someone who is eligible for or who has received mental health or substance use disorder services. This also includes parents and legal guardians who have a child under the age of 18 and they are involved in their treatment plan.

    Are you ready to become a peer counselor? Take the online course and complete the training application.

    Complete the application online

    Resources for peers

    Certified behavioral health organizations (BHOs) reimbursement for SUD peer services

    As of July 1, 2019, peer support services are now included in both the mental health and substance use sections of the Medicaid State Plan. This allows appropriately licensed behavioral health agencies to provide peer support services for both mental health and substance use disorders and bill them as Medicaid reimbursable encounters.

    How does the program work?

    Guided by adult, youth, and family representatives with behavioral health concerns, the program certifies individuals to work in positions that are Medicaid reimbursable.

    If you are a non-Medicaid provider, agency, or other organization, feel free to contact us about possible avenues for sponsoring trainings for your individual needs.

    What is peer counseling?

    In Washington State, peer counseling is an approved Medicaid service that pairs individuals in recovery with trained counselors who share their life experiences.

    In order to provide this Medicaid reimbursable service, licensed behavioral health agencies must have peer counselors who have met the state requirements through our certification process and passed the state exam.

    Certified peer counselors (CPCs) work with their peers (adults and youth) and the parents of children receiving mental health or substance use disorder services. They draw upon their experiences to help peers find hope and support their recovery. The peer’s own life experience uniquely equips them to provide support, encouragement, and resources to those with mental health or substance use disorder challenges.

    Peer counselors work in various settings such as community clinics, hospitals, and crisis teams. Peer counselors, under the supervision of a mental health or substance use disorder professional and as part of a health care team, may:

    • Assist an individual or family in identifying services and activities that promote recovery and lead to increased meaning and purpose.
    • Assist individuals and families in developing their own goals.
    • Share their own recovery stories that are relevant and helpful in overcoming the obstacles faced by individuals and families.
    • Promote personal responsibility for recovery.
    • Assist in a wide range of services to regain control and success in their own lives, such as developing supportive relationships, self-advocacy, stable housing, education and employment.
    • Serve as an advocate.
    • Model skills in recovery and self-management.
    • Complete documentation about their services for Medicaid and employer requirements.

    HCA provides entry level training for certified peer counselors, but training is not a guarantee of employment. You must have the knowledge, skills and abilities needed by employers for specific jobs. Positions also require lived experience, sometimes in specific areas such as with veterans, the homeless, or family experiences.

    Although opportunities for employment are increasing, they can be limited depending on your region. There is a distribution list for information about available positions, but positions are more often advertised locally and on internet job search sites. Employment opportunities are expected to continue to increase.

    Certification has four steps:

    1. Successfully complete the online pre-requisite course.
    2. Apply and be accepted as a possible training applicant.
    3. Successfully complete an HCA-approved in-person training.
    4. Pass the written and oral state exam.

    HCA-approved Certified Peer Counselor trainings, standard behavioral health and youth and family are 5 days long (36-40 hours).

    Peers who have already completed the Recovery Coach training through CCAR Connecticut Community of Addiction Recovery, may be able to attend the HCA-approved, 3 day, Bridge training. 

    Upon passing the state exam, you will receive a letter confirming you have met these requirements.

    Many employers also require that you become credentialed by the Department of Health (DOH) as an agency affiliated counselor after being hired. Your employer or the DOH can provide information about this process. This credential is only required for those who are employed at a licensed behavioral health agency.

    Download frequently asked questions (FAQs) about peer counseling.

    How do I become a certified peer counselor (CPC)?

    Follow this step-by-step certification process:

    1. ​Complete our online prerequisite course and send a copy of your certification of completion to peersupportapps@hca.wa.gov.
    2. Complete the peer counseling application.
    3. Be accepted for, and successfully complete, the HCA-approved CPC training.
    4. Take and pass the state CPC oral and written exams.

    For questions or additional information, contact Peer Support Program at peersupportprogram@hca.wa.gov.

    Where do I go to receive training?

    Our priority is the health and well-being of our CPC community. Due to local concerns about COVID-19, we feel that postponing some of our trainings is the best decision to support efforts in stopping the spread of the virus. We will update the calendar for future trainings.

    For more updates on COVID-19, please visit your local Department of Health website.

    Important: Please note that all training dates are subject to cancellation or rescheduling as necessary. The calendar will be updated as needed.

    Virtual training due to COVID-19: Virtual CPC trainings and testing will begin in May for CPC applicants who are currently working, or who have job offers as peer counselors, at community behavioral health agencies providing peer services. Approved CPC applicants will be contacted by the training contractor if they qualify for this training, per the information provided on their applications. We will post updates on resuming in-person trainings here.

    You must be invited by our contracted trainers to participate a training. Participants must be preapproved to attend a training. Invitations are sent out via email 4-5 weeks in advance.

    HCA hopes that you have a helpful and positive experience with the online training course. Completing the course will help you to to gain the knowledge and skills needed as a certified peer counselor (CPC).

    The online course includes material not covered in the in-person training. The CPC test covers information from both the in-person training and the online course. Please complete the online course thoroughly, take notes, and review the information.

    The Online CPC pre-requisite training has moved to a new platform.  In order to access the training, you will need to create a new account on the new platform.

    You will need to access the new platform in order to take the online CPC pre-requisite training as part of the application process.

    New application process

    The application process has four steps. These steps can be competed in any order but they all must be completed for your application to be reviewed.

    1. Complete the online certified peer counselor pre-requisite training.
    2. Submit the certification of completion received at the end of module nine to peersupportapps@hca.wa.gov
    3. Print or take a screen shot of the certificate.
    4. Complete the online peer support application.

    These steps are required as part of the application process for the standard CPC training, the youth and family CPC training, and the bridge training. Your application will not be reviewed until these steps are completed.

    If you experience technical difficulties with this training, please email peersupportprogram@hca.wa.gov for assistance. Please note that responses might take up to two business days.

    Important: Before being accepted for training, you must complete the online prerequisite course and the online application. Follow steps one and two under How do I become a certified peer counselor? to begin this process.

    2020 trainings

    Virtual training due to COVID-19: Virtual CPC trainings and testing will begin in May for CPC applicants who are currently working, or who have job offers as peer counselors, at community behavioral health agencies providing peer services. Approved CPC applicants will be contacted by the training contractor if they qualify for this training, per the information provided on their applications. We will post updates on resuming in-person trainings here.

    BRIDGE training is a five-day virtual training for recovery coaches who have already received their Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) certification, who want to obtain their peer counselor certification.

    Important: Before being accepted for training, you must complete the online prerequisite course and the online application. Follow steps one and two under How do I become a certified peer counselor? to begin this process.

    These trainings focus on preparing youth and parents to be certified as peer counselors. The trainings cover the same material as the standard training, and the state test is required for both.

    Please note that local applicants will be prioritized for regional trainings, but all completed applications will be reviewed for consideration.

    2020 Train the Trainer trainings will be held virtually due to COVID-19. Check back for dates. 

    The oral and written tests are coordinated by HCA's Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR) and the trainers. They will be scheduled as part of the training agenda and usually occur on the last day of your training. Your trainers will provide this information to you.

    If you need to retake a test you will need to register in advance.

    How do I register?

    For information and to register for all tests and retests, please contact:

    Things to keep in mind

    • Space is limited for each exam. Priority is given to participants in that week's training. 
    • Registration is accepted on a first-come basis.
    • Let Beverly know if you need a reasonable accommodation to take the exam. You may be asked to provide written support for your request.

    The Role Employment Plays in Recovery

    This course is intended for certified peer counselors but has helpful information for anyone interested in increasing their understanding of employment programs, services, and resources. For more information, visit the pathways to employment website.

    Start your employment training using these four modules:

    Individual placement and support (IPS) is a specific model of support employment. IPS is also considered an evidence-based practice. You can find more information on the IPS Works site.

    The Role Housing Plays in Recovery

    This course is intended for certified peer counselors but has helpful information for anyone interested in increasing their understanding of housing programs, services, and resources. There are a multitude of resources and information, in addition to the online modules, posted on the Pathways to Housing website.

    Start your housing training using these four modules:

    The Permanent Supportive Housing Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) toolkit outlines the essential components for supportive housing services and programs for people living with mental illness disorders. It discusses how to develop and integrate evidence-based programs in mental health systems. The toolkit includes eight booklets on program development.

    Trauma-informed approach (TIA) trainings

    The following TIA online courses are available in English and Spanish:

    • TIA Overview for Everyone
    • TIA for Agency Leaders
    • TIA for Staff
    • TIA for Supervisors

    Register for TIA trainings. You will receive a welcome invitation from TIA Washington to access the courses.

    Intersection of Behavioral Health and the Law

    Contact

    Peer Support Program
    Email: peersupportprogram@hca.wa.gov
    Phone: 360-725-1325
    Fax: 360-725-1385