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This past September, while many of us were busy brushing summer sand off our feet and getting ourselves or our kids settled into the new school year, California was passing a piece of legislation that will have an incredible impact on our mental health system in the coming years. California Senate Bill 803, known as the Peer Support Specialist Certification Program Act, recognizes the value of peer specialists within California’s mental health system by legitimizing peer workers as a medical-billable service.
Below, we will go into the details of the bill and discuss what it means for the mental health system in California.
SB 803, introduced in January 2020 by state Sen. Jim Beall and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 25, expands California’s behavioral health workforce by allowing for certification of peer support specialists. The bill clearly states the value of peer workers in every aspect of the mental health system and acknowledges that prior to this bill, no statewide scope of practice for implementing a peer workforce existed. This bill allows California to join 48 other states in implementing standardized curricula and certification protocols for peer support services.
Image from iStock-ma_rish
The signing of SB 803 is significant because it recognizes that people with lived experience can play an integral role in the delivery of mental health and substance use disorder treatment.
As the legislation states, research has shown that peer supports improve client functioning, increase client satisfaction, reduce family burden, alleviate depression and other symptoms, reduce homelessness, reduce hospitalizations and hospital stays, increase client activation, and enhance client self-advocacy. Certifying peer specialists can also increase the diversity and overall effectiveness of the mental health workforce.
“With the signing of SB 803, California can engage Peer Support Specialists as a critical part of the behavioral health workforce. As we continue to face the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, California will now be ready to utilize the unique role that peers and families play in our state’s behavioral health recovery.” – Jessica Cruz, CEO of NAMI California