Mayor Announces Launch of Certified Recovery Peer Advocate Training Program

2017 Winter Newsletter, Initiative Updates, Policy Updates

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the launch of NYACH’s Certified Recovery Peer Advocate (CRPA) training program at Queensborough Community College (QCC). CRPAs are certified to provide coaching, support, information, guidance, and motivation to those seeking or sustaining recovery from a substance use disorder. Peers have a unique blend of lived experience in the field of recovery and specialized training and peer services have been shown to reduce hospitalizations, hasten recovery time, and improve patient experience. “We have been working every day to destigmatize substance use and mental health issues through our ThriveNYC initiative,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The Certified Recovery Peer Advocate program is yet another tool we will use to ensure that New Yorkers struggling with these issues not only have the support they need to overcome their challenges, but that they can utilize their experience to help others.”

Treatment and recovery providers report strong hiring demand for CRPAs to be imminently forthcoming with enhanced reimbursable peer services, yet until now, there has been no seamless training in NYC that prepares individuals to pass this certification exam and work as CRPAs. The pilot training program at QCC will build capacity in NYC for CRPAs to meet the anticipated industry demand for this position while supporting a clear career pathway to full-time employment for peers. “Mount Sinai Beth Israel is honored to partner with the New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare in this very important project. Certified Peer Recovery Advocates play an extremely important role in the recovery process of individuals with substance abuse disorders. As substance use is a national health issue, this project is not only relevant, but necessary,” said Sabina Lim MD, MPH, Vice President of Behavioral Health at Mount Sinai Health System and an employer partner in the program.

The training program consists of 80 hours of didactic training, 46 of which is aligned with the learning objectives in the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium certification exam used by the State’s two accrediting bodies, and the remaining focuses on professional skills and academic remediation as identified as needs by recovery providers. The curriculum is informed by both employers participating in the program (Article 32 clinics or HCBS outpatient providers) and peers in the field to ensure alignment with workforce needs and the intent of the peer movement.

The pilot program targets individuals who have been working in the field of recovery on a volunteer basis and, upon obtaining certification, will now be able to receive a living wage for their work. QCC hired an Education Case Manager from the field to provide students with intensive case management throughout the program and upon completion. Students will receive test preparation for the exam and support applying to one of the two certifying bodies in New York State- the New York Association Board and the New York Certification Association. Successful program graduates will receive 3 college credits and interview with our employer partners.

“Quality behavioral health services are vital to our City and the wellness of our people. New Yorkers who are confronting behavioral health challenges deserve the support and resources they need for recovery and this program helps meet this challenge,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services. “This new peer advocate program supports behavioral health service providers in delivering successful treatment while connecting New Yorkers with a path to quality employment in the healthcare field.”

NYACH is working closely with partners at NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the NYS Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services on this effort and to meet the challenges that OASAS-licensed providers report in incorporating CRPAs into their workforce and care delivery models.

The project is aligned with key mental health and workforce strategies of Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City of New York:

  • ThriveNYC: A Mental Health Roadmap for All: In the City’s mental health action plan, peer supports are emphasized as part of the effort to create sustainable recovery models. Training certified Peer Specialists for the behavioral health field is one of the 54 initiatives in ThriveNYC;
  • One New York – The Plan for a Strong and Just City and One New York – Healthcare for Our Neighborhoods: both plans stress the integration of behavioral health with primary care and expanding community-based services;
  • Career Pathways: One City Working Together: the Mayor’s workforce development strategy calls for industry-informed training approaches and interagency collaboration.

The project aligns to key efforts of New York State in redesigning care delivery:

  • As of July 1, 2015, peer services provided by CRPAs at OASAS-licensed outpatient clinics are reimbursable by Medicaid at an increased rate;
  • As of January 1, 2016, as part of Medicaid Redesign and the integration of behavioral health services into Medicaid Managed Care, adults with select Serious Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorder diagnoses will be eligible to enroll in a new type of health plan, called Health and Recovery Plans (HARPs). HARPs will arrange for access to a benefit package of Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), which include peer services provided by CRPAs;
  • The Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program has a focus on promoting mental health and decreasing problem substance use through incorporating peer supports into new community-based service models and integrating behavioral health into primary care.

See the full press release here. The program was also featured in Politico New York Health Care.