Peer Support Services

Peer Support Services can reduce symptoms, enlarge social networks, and enhance quality of life, especially when offered along with traditional mental health services.

Peer support is a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful.
– Sherry Mead, 2003, Defining Peer Support

What are Peer Support Services? What is a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS)?

Peer Support Services are delivered by CPS who have lived experience with mental health challenges. CPS are trained and state-certified in a recovery-based, empowerment model that embraces the strengths of individuals to achieve their recovery and community integration goals. Peer Support Services are not meant to replace traditional mental health treatment and services but can function as part of the behavioral health professional team while offering one-to-one support. Peer Support Services are intended to inspire hope in individuals that recovery is not only possible but probable.

What can Certified Peer Specialists do?

  • Assist in the development of a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) and/or a Mental Health Advance Directive (MHAD)
  • Support the recognition of early signs of relapse, implementation of identified wellness strategies and/or learning how to avoid a crisis
  • Support the development and utilization of less restrictive alternatives that prevent hospitalization, incarceration, and the use of emergency services when appropriate
  • Assist in learning about returning to school, job training, or full or part-time paid work
  • Assist in the process of obtaining reasonable accommodations related to mental health diagnoses
  • Support active community engagement in the neighborhood and community where the individual lives, learns, and works
  • Assist in accessing and maintaining stable housing and/or in learning how to improve or change an inadequate housing situation
  • Assist the individual to discuss concerns about medication or diagnosis with the physician or nurse at the individual’s request
  • Assist the individual to arrange necessary treatment at the individual’s request and guide the individual toward a proactive role in his or her treatment
  • Cultivate the individual’s ability to make informed, independent choices
  • Support the development of a network of people who have been through similar experiences
  • Help plan and facilitate practical activities leading to increased self-worth and improved self-concept
  • Assist in developing and maintaining positive personal and social support networks (friends, family, associates), improving or eliminating unhealthy personal relationships, starting new friendships, and improving communication with family members and others

What DON’T Certified Peer Specialist do?

  • Dwell on problems or limitations
  • Define what success or “getting better” means for others
  • Just “hang out” and be a friend
  • Provide transportation without a plan to improve an individual’s ability to obtain and utilize other transportation options
  • Offer medical or medication advice or make diagnoses
  • Tell people what they should do

What are the benefits of Peer Support Services?

Peer Support Services can reduce symptoms, enlarge social networks, and enhance quality of life, especially when offered along with traditional mental health services. Peer Support Services do not replace traditional services but instead, offer an alternative to individuals who may feel alienated and disconnected from the mental health system.

Who is eligible to receive Peer Support Services?

Individuals who are eligible for Medicaid (Medical Assistance) are eligible for Medicaid funded Peer Support Services. County funded individuals are also eligible with a case management referral and County approval.

Eligibility is targeted to individuals diagnosed with a Serious Mental Illness (which is defined as):

A condition experienced by persons 18 years of age and older who, at any time during the past year, had a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that met the diagnostic criteria within the current DSM and that has resulted in functional impairment, and which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Adults who would have met functional impairment criteria during the referenced year without the benefit of treatment or other support services are considered to have a serious mental illness. For youth aged 14 up to age 18, there must be the presence of or a history of a serious emotional disturbance or serious mental illness.

Individuals eligible for services would benefit from support in at least one of the following domains: Educational (e.g., obtaining a high school or college degree); Social (e.g., developing a social support system); Vocational (e.g., obtaining part-time or full-time employment; and Self-Maintenance (e.g., managing symptoms, understanding his or her illness, managing money, living more independently).

How does the referral process work?

Anyone, including the individual, can make a referral to Peer Support Services. However, a recommendation for Peer Support Services must be provided by a Licensed Practitioner of the Healing Arts defined as a Physician, Licensed Psychologist, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) or a Physician’s Assistant.

To make a referral, visit or call 717.517.8552 or toll-free at 1.877.597.9497 and choose extension 29 to speak with the Intake and Referral Coordinator. We will then assist you in completing referral paperwork and discussing the additional information required. Referrals may also be faxed to 717.517.8557.

Would you like to make a referral?