Governor, State of California
State Capitol, Room 2114
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: SB 803 (Beall) State Peer Support Certification – Request Signature as Amended August 24, 2020
Dear Governor Newsom,
I respectfully request your signature on SB 803 (Beall), and am pleased to join the powerful coalition of California counties, health organizations and advocates who are calling upon the state to standardize high-quality peer and family mental health support services.
SB 803 would establish a Peer, Parent, Transition Age and Family Support Specialist Certification Program to be administered by the California Department of Health Care Services. Peer providers who use their life experience with mental illness and recovery, coupled with skills learned through formal training, have proven a valuable addition to service delivery in mental health settings. Research demonstrates that use of qualified peer support specialists has measurable benefits to clients, including reduced hospitalizations, improved functioning, alleviation of depression and other symptoms, and enhanced self-advocacy.
Across California, peer providers are already utilized in many settings. However, there is no statewide standard of practice, consistent curriculum, training standards, supervision standards, or certification protocol.
Creation of a state certification program, as laid out in SB 803, would:
• Define the service of peer support,
• Standardize the quality of services provided by peer support specialists,
• Assure that practitioners receive standardized training and demonstrate competency and allow for portability of certification to other counties and providers in the state.
Just as important, establishing a certification program would enable California peer providers to bill federal Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) for 50 percent of the cost of services provided by certified peers. This is a crucial advantage, as it allows peer services to become a sustainable piece of the state’s mental health care delivery system.
In 2007, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent a guidance letter to all state Medicaid directors emphasizing, “peer support services are an evidence-based mental health model of care which consists of a qualified peer support provider who assists individuals with their recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders.” CMS encouraged states to establish a state certification process for training, credentialing, supervision and care coordination. (CMS, SMDL #07-011)
Currently 48 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs have implemented protocols to certify peer specialists, and four additional states are in the process of creating certification programs, enabling the majority of states to leverage Medicaid funds. And yet, California has not joined the rest of the nation.
The time has come for California to embrace peer support as an evidence-based model and put in place a certification program that will standardize best practices. SB 803 makes sense from both a policy and fiscal perspective and will result in a more comprehensive and effective approach to mental health care.
It is important to develop and build a standard peer support program that creates a career ladder so that consumers and family members working in mental health care have the opportunity to fully contribute, translating their lived experience into meaningful and empowering employment. It is my hope that stakeholders would be included in the development of the program and finally viewed as an integral part of the public mental health system.
It is for these reasons that I ask that you sign SB 803.