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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

    2020 Certified Peer Counselor (CPC) continuing education update

    HCA continues to review how we use our limited resources to meet the peer workforce demands in the behavioral health system. Since the COVID 19 pandemic we have begun looking with an even more critical eye on how we can maintain and improve these essential services. We have made the decision to focus on the CPC credentialing program. Our goal is to improve training and testing, and reevaluate how we provide CPC continuing education.

    We are excited to see the incredible growth in the number of number of peers working in so many different service environments. We want to continue this trend and reevaluate how we use our limited resources.

    Resources for peers during the COVID-19 pandemic

    Request for peer program information

    During the 2019 legislative session, 2SHB 1394 called for a report on all peer programs in Washington. The report includes all peer program  locations, and the numbers served. If you operate a “peer program”, we would like you to complete our peer program survey.

    We use the term “peer programs” broadly. This is an opportunity to showcase the richness and variety of peer programs statewide. The survey is not intended to capture all peer counseling services, but to identify independent peer organizations and services.

    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 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 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.

    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 Peer Workforce Alliance (PWA) 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 PWA 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 email and attach a copy of your certificate of completion to peersupportapps@hca.wa.gov.

    If you experience difficulties navigating the online course, please contact dakota.steel@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.

    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 Intersection of Behavioral Health and the Law overview modules are for certified peer counselors, but offer helpful information for anyone interested in supporting people who are involved in the criminal court system.

    This is not the complete training. These are overviews of the training modules. The two-day, in-person training will be available to all CPCs once physical distancing measures allow. It is possible the training will transition to a virtual setting. The manual referenced in the following modules is provided at the training.

    We continue to review how we use our limited resources to meet the peer workforce demands in the behavioral health system. Since the COVID-19 pandemic we have begun looking with an even more critical eye on how we can maintain and improve these essential services. We have made the decision to focus on the CPC credentialing program. Our goal is to improve training and testing, and reevaluate how we provide CPC continuing education.

    We are excited to see the incredible growth in the number of number of peers working in so many different service environments. We want to continue this trend and re-evaluate how we use our limited resources.

    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 trainings

    The following online courses on trauma-informed approach (TIA) 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.

    Contact

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