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MHA Launches First-Ever National Peer Specialist Certification

After years of development, Mental Health America (MHA) is proud to announce the creation of the MHA National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) credential. This groundbreaking national advanced certification lets peers – individuals who share the experience of living with a psychiatric disorder and/or addiction – show they have the highest levels of knowledge and experience to create new opportunities in public and private settings.

Peer-initiated and conceived, the MHA NCPS credential recognizes peers with the lived experience, training, and job experience to work alongside healthcare teams. The expansion of peer support into the private sector will open new career paths and opportunities, which have been previously unexplored, for thousands of peer supporters.

“Peers are an essential component of recovery-oriented systems,” said Patrick Hendry, MHA Vice President of Peer Advocacy, Supports, and Services. “Peer support changes lives, and has the power to transform communities and services.  With MHA’s Center for Peer Support, our mission is to promote peer support in all aspects of healthcare; to provide access to the latest information on programs and evidence in peer support; to offer resources for peers; and to help grow and expand the peer workforce.”

True to the spirit of peer support, the MHA NCPS credential does not mean a peer is a clinician. It emphasizes and expects that all duties reflect the principles, guidelines, and core values of peer support. It is not designed to replace current certifications but to build upon and enhance current programs—by adding additional competencies to ensure peers can meet the demands of a changing workforce and increasing opportunities. The private health sector offers a wide array of work opportunities for qualified peer support workers, including working in private practice alongside psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed mental health therapists; in primary care, emergency departments, and inpatient settings; as members of Whole Health Care Teams; or in supervision roles.

To become a MHA NCPS, you must have a minimum of 18 months documented experience (3,000 hours); in-depth knowledge of 6 domains of practice (Foundations of Peer Support; Foundations of Healthcare Systems; Mentoring, Shared Learning, and Relationship Building; Activation and Self-Management; Advocacy; and Personal and Ethical Responsibilities); prior state certification requiring a minimum of 40 hours of training or completion of a MHA approved training and employment in a peer role; and a passing score on a moderated examination.

“Supporting people in achieving and maintaining recovery takes compassion and skills,” concluded Hendry. “With more opportunities for peers to work in a variety of systems and settings, earning the MHA NCPS credential shows that you have the highest levels of knowledge and skills required to thrive as a peer support specialist.” 

The MHA National Certified Peer Specialist credential was developed in partnership with the Florida Certification Board, and piloted with national HMO Kaiser Permanente (KP).

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