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.

Certified behavioral health organizations can receive Medicaid 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.

Read the SUD peer services fact sheet

Read the peer support letter from the Washington State Department of Health

 

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

Download the application

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 a DBHR approved in-person training.
    4. Pass the written and oral state exam.

    DBHR 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 DBHR 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 licensed 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 license 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.
      Note: ​You must complete this course before submitting your peer support application.
    2. Complete online peer support application for the in-person training. (Available December 1st)
    3. Be accepted for, and successfully complete, the DBHR approved CPC training.
    4. Take and pass the state CPC exam.

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

    Where do I go to receive training?

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

    You must be invited by our contracted trainers to attend a training. These trainings are held at various locations across the state.  Participants must be pre-approved to attend. Invitations are sent out via email 4-5 weeks in advance.

    We hope you find the online prerequisite training course to be a positive and helpful experience. Completing the course is important to gain the knowledge and skills you need as a certified peer counselor (CPC). 

    There is much information in the online course, including material that is not covered in the in-person training. The CPC test covers information from both the in-person and the online course. Please complete the online course thoroughly, take notes, and review the information as you are able.

    Getting started

    1. Go to the Behavioral Health Workforce Collaborative (BHWC) website.
    2. Click Register for the Online CPC Training.
    3. Click ADD TO CART.
    4. Click CHECK OUT.
      (No credit card is required.)
    5. Enter your Customer Information.
    6. Click Continue to payment method.
      (Your order is free. No payment is required, this course is free.)
    7. Click Complete order.

    You will receive an email from BHWC confirming your order, followed by two additional emails shortly after that to guide you through completing your registration and accessing your student Dashboard and the online CPC training modules.

    Taking the course and submitting the certificate

    Once you have completed your registration and logged into the training:

    1. Scroll down to see each of the course modules. Each module has audio, and there is a written script to read in Resources. You may also print the script for further reference. 
    2. When you have finished the course,  please save a copy of your certificate of completion to submit after you have completed the online application.

     If you experience difficulties navigating the online course, please contact Patrick.Maloy@wsu.edu

    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.

    2019 trainings

    January
    • BHO Thurston-Mason (Thurston-Mason residents only): January 14-18
    • BHO Spokane (Spokane residents only): January 28-February 1
    • Regional Vancouver: January 28-February 1 (canceled)

    February
    • Statewide (Westside) Arlington: February 11-15
    March
    • Regional Pierce: March 4-8
    • BHO King County (King County residents only): March 4-8 (test date will be March 11)
    • Regional Vancouver​: March 25-29
    April
    • BHO Great Rivers: April 8-12

    • Regional King County: April 15-19

    May
    • Statewide (Eastside) Moses Lake: May 13-17

    June
    • Regional North Sound: June 3-7

    • Regional Tumwater: June 24-28

    • BHO King County (King County residents only): June 24-28 (test date will be July 1)

    July
    • Regional Longview: July 15-19

    August
    • Statewide (Westside) Pierce: August 12-16

    September
    • Regional King County: September 9-13

    • Regional Yakima/Tri-Cities: September 30-October 4

    October
    • Statewide (Westside) Vancouver: October 21-25

    • BHO King County (King County residents only): October 21-25

    • BHO Spokane (Spokane County residents only): Oct. 21-25

    November
    • Regional North Sound: November 18-22

     

    BRIDGE training is a three-day training for recovery coaches [trained through Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR)] who want to obtain their peer counselor certification.

    Date

    Location

    September 10-12

    Thurston/Mason

    September 23-25

    Spokane

    October 14-16 Pierce
    October 21-23 Peer Seattle
    December 2-4 Battle Ground

    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.

    2019 trainings

    Name Location Date

    Youth and family statewide (Westside)

    Renton

    March 11-15

    Youth and family statewide (eastside)

    TBD

    June 10-14​

    Youth and family regional Pierce County September 23-27
    Youth and family regional Tri-Cities December 2-6

    The oral and written tests are coordinated by 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.

    2019 testing dates

    Date

    Location

    Training organization

    September 12

    Thurston/Mason

    Peer Work Force Alliance Bridge Training

    September 13

    Regional King

    King County BHASO

    September 20 Grays Harbor OURR alliance
    September 25

    Spokane

    Peer Work Force Alliance Bridge Training
    September 27

    Pierce

    (Y&F)

    EnRoute/DBHR
    October 4 Yakima/Tri-Cities CVAB/DBHR Regional
    October 25

    Vancouver

    (Westside)

    CVAB/DBHR Statewide
    October 28

    King County

    (Residents only)

    King County BHASO
    November 22 North Sound CVAB/DBHR Regional
    December 5 Battle Ground  
    December 6

    Tri-Cities

    (Y&F)

    CVAB/DBHR Regional

    How do I register?

    For more information and to register, visit the Holding the Hope website, or contact:

    General continuing education*

    Date

    Course name

    Location

    January 31

    De-escalation Skills for CPCs Skagit County/Mt. Vernon
    March 6 Documentation King County/Seattle
    March 8 Co-Occurring Disorders Snohomish County/Everett
    April 10 De-escalation Skills for CPCs Grant County/Moses Lake
    April 24 Documentation Grant County/Moses Lake
    April 26 Documentation Stevens County/Colville
    May 6 Culture and Diversity Pierce County/Parkland
    June 5 Co-Occurring Disorders Stevens County/Colville
    June 5 Ethics and Boundaries King County/Seattle
    June 26 Trauma Informed Peer Support Kitsap County/Silverdale
    July 10 Ethics and Boundaries Skagit County/Mt. Vernon
    August 7 Culture and Diversity Kitsap County/Silverdale
    August 7 Ethics and Boundaries Lewis County/ Centralia
    August 7 Peers in Crisis and Suicide Prevention Stevens County/Colville
    August 8 Peers in Crisis and Suicide Prevention Spokane County/Spokane
    September 5 De-escalation Skills for CPCs Clark County/TBA
    November 6 Documentation Pierce County/Parkland
    November 13 Culture and Diversity Benton or Franklin County/Tri Cities
    November 20 Trauma Informed Peer Support King County/Seattle
    December 2 Trauma Informed Peer Support Spokane County/Spokane
    December 4 Co-Occurring Disorders Cowlitz County/Longview
    December 11 Peers in Crisis and Suicide Prevention Clark County/TBA

    Wellness Recovery Action Plans (WRAP) training

    Date

    Course name

    Location

    February 5-6

    WRAP Seminar 1 (2-day)

    Skagit County/Mt. Vernon
    February 19-21 WRAP Refresher Pierce County/Parkland
    March 18-22 WRAP Seminar 2 (5-day) Skagit County/Mt. Vernon
    April 3-4 WRAP Seminar 1 (2-day) Spokane County/Spokane
    May 28-30 WRAP Refresher Spokane County/Spokane
    July 8-12 WRAP Seminar 2 (5-day) Spokane County/Spokane
    July 30-31 WRAP Seminar 1 (2-day) Kitsap County/Silverdale
    September 23-27 WRAP Seminar 2 (5-day) Kitsap County/Silverdale
    October 15 -16 WRAP Seminar 1 (2-day) Stevens County/Colville
    October 29-31 WRAP Refresher King County/SeaTac

    *This schedule is subject to modifications. Watch for promotional material with links and final registration details for each training. Registration for each training will open six weeks prior to the training on the Holding the Hope website.

    Contact

    Peer Support Program
    Email: peersupportprogram@hca.wa.gov
    Phone: 360-725-1325 or 360-725-5294

    Fax: 360-725-1385