Kaine introduces bill to support mental health care, substance use disorder recovery
Health, Politics, U.S. & World

Kaine introduces bill to support mental health care, substance use disorder recovery

Crystal Graham
mental health support
(© shintartanya – stock.adobe.com)

U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mike Braun (R-IN), members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, introduced legislation today to help peer support specialists serving individuals recovering from a mental health condition or substance use disorder.

The Providing Empathetic and Effective Recovery Support Act would elevate the role of ‘peer support specialists,’ individuals who have lived experience with a mental health condition or substance use disorder and are certified to assist individuals and their families in recovery through advocacy, relationship and community building, resource sharing, mentoring, goal setting and more.

Although peer support specialists have been shown to decrease substance use for individuals with substance use disorders and reduce re-hospitalization for individuals with mental health conditions, peer specialists often face significant barriers to certification and practice.

The PEER Support Act would help remove these barriers, address workforce shortages in the field, and expand access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment.

“All across Virginia, I hear about the immense need to support Virginians recovering from substance use and mental health challenges. It’s critical that we have high-quality providers who are adequately trained to help individuals in recovery,” said Kaine. “Through their own experiences, peer support specialists play an important role in the recovery process. The PEER Support Act would better support these experts and expand access to care by identifying best practices, providing support for training, and addressing barriers facing prospective peer support specialists.”

Trained peer supporters make a big difference in Virginia and across the U.S.

“Trained peer supporters make an incredible difference in helping people recover, and this bill positions peer support specialists to be a lifeline throughout the behavioral health care system,” said Bruce Curser, Executive Director of Mental Health America of Virginia.

“Peer Support Specialist professionals in Virginia and across the United States have taken great strides in the past several years to create a unified and qualified workforce that is providing lifesaving support services to individuals impacted by the adverse effects of mental health or substance use experiences. The increased need and demand for qualified PSS workers is growing in the community, in systems of care, and in criminal justice settings,” said Cheryl DeHaven, BS, ACC, CPRS, Henrico County Resident and member of the National Association of Peer Supporters. “The Peer Support Act will increase opportunities for individuals working in the profession to be recognized and respected as a valued profession and will provide us with the federal recognition and support that is needed to address the various workforce challenges that we, as PSS, are facing as a young and emerging workforce.”

The PEER Support Act

The PEER Support Act would codify the Office of Recovery in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to:

  • Train, educate, and support the professional development of peer support specialists.
  • Research and publish best practice recommendations for the training, certification, and supervision of peer support specialists for entities that employ these professionals.
  • Recommend career pathways for peer support specialists.
  • Instruct the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice to conduct a study to research states’ screening processes for prospective peer support specialists that may pose undue barriers to their certification and to provide evidence-based recommendations for overcoming those barriers. Many prospective peer support specialists cannot get a license because of their past interactions with law enforcement related to addiction (i.e. convictions for possession of drugs) prior to recovery, even though their past experience recovering from drug use makes them strong advocates for those who are currently in recovery.
  • Direct the Office of Management and Budget to revise the Standard Occupational Classification system to recognize peer support specialists as a profession, which would help ensure accurate data reporting on the field.

The PEER Support Act is supported by the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, American Association on Health and Disability, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Mental Health Counselors Association, American Psychological Association Services, Bipartisan Policy Center, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Face and Voices of Recovery, International Society for Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses, Lakeshore Foundation, National Association for Peer Supporters, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, National Federation of Families, Mental Health America, Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health, RI International, SMART Recovery, American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, Ballad Health, Fountain House, Overdose Prevention Initiative, Psychotherapy Action Network, Trust for America’s Health, and NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.

Latest News

virginia map
Economy, Virginia

Commonwealth’s general fund revenues exceed expectations in August

shower water
Environment, Virginia

Monsanto to pay Virginia $80M in PCBs distribution settlement

Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are artificial chemicals responsible for harmful health effects and negative environmental impacts. PCBs were distributed by Monsanto Co. from the 1930s to 1977, when the company produced 99 percent of America’s PCBs. Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and his team secured an $80 million settlement agreement with Monsanto Co. for environmental contamination...

Economy, U.S. & World

Mortgage rates decreased in early September, remained above 7%

The cost of living, including food and gas, remains on the up and up, but mortgage rates may be on the down.

broadband internet

‘Internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity’: Four organizations awarded federal investments

open business sign

SCCF accepting entrepreneurs and business ideas in new Incubator Program


Boys & Girls Club golf tournament raises more than $25K for programs

loveworks sign Staunton
Culture, Local

LOVEworks sign to be featured in Staunton’s Wharf for QCMM this weekend