As announced earlier on this site, the DMH had developed a grant for increasing the number of eligible peer support staff for CABHAs. (For more information, see article re: grant). But leadership is also realizing that our issue in North Carolina is not so much availability of persons with peer support certification, but the issue of making this cost-effective and otherwise feasible so that more providers are interested in offering it.
Some of our complications in North Carolina come from having to define the service narrowly enough that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) would approve the new definition. Unfortunately, in so doing, many are concerned that the service was so tightly defined that this could put us on shaky ground. Because North Carolina’s definition has emphasized tighter clinical supervision structures than other states, we hope we do not find that it diminishes the focus on mutual engagement between persons with the lived experience of having a mental illness, on hope as a sustaining therapeutic foundation, and on the personal responsiveness of a peer specialist to his or her client. Furthermore, the requirement for specified supervisory staff makes the service more expensive to our providers. I urge readers to call for sufficient funding for peer support, because the step to truly integrating sufficient, quality peer support into our mental health system is possibly one of the most important steps North Carolina could make in helping to turn the tide of institutionalization and frequent crises.
DHHS Calls Workgroup The Department of Health and Human Services is taking these potential concerns seriously, working ahead of the July 1 go-live date when peer support becomes an enhanced service for eligible consumers. In anticipation of the transition, it has called a workgroup of peer specialists, provider agency directors who have long embedded peer support in their services, staff from the Division of MHDDSAS and staff from the Division of Medical Assistance and others from the Department of Health and Human Services. The first meeting was a three hour discussion this past Tuesday.
The topics which arose in the discussion were mutually interesting to participants, regardless of background. Much of the discussion from the first meeting revolved around training: 1. Training of Supervisors who will oversee and support peer specialists; 2. Training of organizations so that they can integrate peer staff into their environments in ways that support the staff and the services; and 3. Training for Peer Support Specialists that will help them adjust to the operational tasks such as documentation, communication with others about client progress, and time management.
The other issue that was discussed was quality: How will the workgroup develop quality indicators that speak to a set of long-term, recovery-oriented outcomes that the Director of the Division of Medical Assistance, Dr. Craigan Gray, has endorsed.
To see the newly approved service definition, click here. Link is also listed, below. Scroll to pages 95 thru 104 for the full definition.
This work group is very focused and open to learning from each other. It’s cause is very important–high quality peer support available across our state. If you feel you have some specific input that would help the workgroup process, please contact Mr. Bert Bennett (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ms. Starleen Scott-Robbins (email@example.com) and ask if you can participate in the next meeting, which is this Tuesday the 22nd. There is a clear phone line for teleconferencing.