Leading mental health organizations, including Mental Health America (MHA), the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), the National Association of Peer Supporters (NAPS) and the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW), released a joint statement today strongly supporting new bipartisan legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA) and Adrian Smith (R-NE) to provide Medicare coverage of peer support services for individuals with mental illness and/or substance use disorders who are being treated in primary care and receiving integrated behavioral health services. The bill clarifies that nothing in the Medicare statute prohibits peer support specialists from providing services billed as part of integrated behavioral health. It specifies that peer support specialists’ services may be billed under the collaborative care and other behavioral health integration codes in Medicare.
Peer support specialists are people with lived experience of a mental illness or substance use disorder who have completed specialized training and are certified to deliver support services under appropriate state or national certification standards. Peer support specialists assist individuals in achieving their recovery goals by furnishing emotional, informational, and other support services to individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness (including dementia) or a substance use disorder.
This legislation recognizes the unique role of peer support specialists. They complement therapists, case managers, and physicians as part of a coordinated team. Peer support promotes recovery by helping individuals better engage in services, manage physical and mental health conditions, build support systems, and, ultimately, live self-directed lives in their communities. Under this proposed legislation peer support specialists may be included as part of an integrated behavioral health team that includes a primary care doctor, a consulting psychiatrist, a care manager and others.
MHA has long supported the use of peer specialists in recovery services. MHA’s Center for Peer Support provides information on peer services, research and reports, webinar trainings, and a pathway to advanced national credentialing.