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Summer 2013, Volume 21, Number 3

Enlisting Peers as Enrollment Helpers

When it comes to making complex decisions, it's often your friends who give you the best advice.

"People really respond best when they hear about health insurance programs from people they know and trust," said Kevin J. Malone, a Public Health Analyst in SAMHSA's Office of Policy, Planning, and Innovation. "Peer and recovery community organizations really embody a great source of trusted information for people in the community."

That's the idea behind SAMHSA's Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy (BRSS TACS) State Peer Awards for Health Reform Education. Now in its second year, the program helps peer-run and recovery community organizations build health reform-related statewide networks. Those networks have two goals: creating and disseminating state-specific educational materials on health reform and helping peer-run and recovery community organizations prepare to provide outreach, eligibility, and enrollment assistance to people recovering from mental and/or substance use disorders.

Eight peer-run and recovery community organizations recently received subcontracts: Foundation for Recovery in Las Vegas, NV; Grassroots Empowerment Project in Madison, WI; Mental Health America of Oregon in Portland; Minnesota Recovery Connection in St. Paul; National Alliance of Methadone Advocates in the Bronx, NY; Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association in Harrisburg; the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania in Doylestown; and the Transformation Center and Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery in Roxbury and Boston.

"Last year's awardees accomplished a great deal with a relatively small amount of money," said Project Officer Catherine D. Nugent, L.C.P.C., Senior Public Health Analyst in the Office of Consumer Affairs at SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services. "Plus," she said, "most of the 2012 awardees have leveraged the funding — and the opportunity to develop their networks — so that they are continuing their efforts in some way."

In Maryland, for example, On Our Own of Maryland developed health reform marketing materials and distributed them to peer-run wellness and recovery centers and developed training materials peers will use to train others about health reform. In Vermont, Friends of Recovery created a health reform blog aimed at peers and distributed health reform information to peer-led and recovery community groups across the state as well as state planning committees concerned with behavioral health services.

"The subcontracts won't just help people get enrolled in new health insurance options," added Ms. Nugent. "As states move forward with health reform implementation, peer-run organizations can emphasize the importance of the peer workforce and inclusion of recovery support services among essential health benefits."

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