164: Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (Sort Of)

We are talking about Certified Peer Recovery Specialists. Or certified peers. Or peers. Or certified recovery peers. Whatever you want to call them, peers are making an impact in the recovery world. We talk with Jenn, from Voices of Hope, about the peer movement. We explore what a peer is, what training goes into becoming a peer, what the peer job entails, and what peers should not be doing in their role as a peer. Have questions about peers? We have answers. Listen in as we explore the world of Certified Peers and then tell us your thoughts.

Certified Peer Recovery Specialist

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Email: RecoverySortOf@gmail.com

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recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or Fellowship the attitudes expressed are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature [Music]

uh welcome back it’s recovery sort of I’m Billy I’m a person in long-term recovery and I’m Jenny I’m also a person in long-term recovery and today we have Jennifer Turk person long-term recovery and Jennifer’s here to talk to us today about cprs certified peer recovery specialist what that is what all that stuff means what peers are good for how to become one all that fun stuff so Jennifer she’s also my amazing wife and she’s been a big supporter in our podcast so thank you for that well thank you Billy for having the podcast so tell us a little bit about yourself how you got into this work of peer recovery specialist and then you know how you’ve been involved in that for I don’t know how many years now a lot of years now yeah so you know I’ve had a lot of jobs and my recovery and in my life lots of jobs a lot of administrative assistant jobs tattooing done all kinds of crazy things in my life and it was in between jobs that one of our friends Scott Tice said Jennifer you ought to you know go get this job as a peer at the local Health Department they’re hiring people in recovery and to help people and you ought to do this it wasn’t paying a lot at all I applied it took a month I was still kind of in between jobs um and I said sure you know yeah I’ll do this um I wasn’t really sure what it was I thought I was going to be telling my story you know because that’s what I’ve done in the 12-step Fellowship forever so I thought I would just be telling my story everywhere like I do in the 12-step meetings but it’s been years now and I have not told my story yet um you know getting that job at the health department and you know they were like we’re using people in recovery to help people access treatment and be supportive because studies show when people are engaged with other people in recovery the outcomes are dramatically improved people stay engaged with treatment they have long longer term like better feelings about treatment and recovery and they stay engaged so we’re going to do this um the state is pushing it so they had me talk to people at the hospital we went to the hospital I was with in the homeless encampments I went to family involvement meetings with social services for people who were trying to get their kids back went to the jail I sat in outpatient groups um and help people when they came into the health department go through orientation paperwork and people who need to go to detox and help coordinate like treatment navigation and what they taught me was like they had me go to a bunch of classes like recovery coach Academy and um other things to to learn that the expert in the room when it came to recovery now this has taken me some time to figure all this out and have words for it but at the time I’m like what am I doing here and they’re like well we just want you you know to give your experience in you know as needed ways in where it matters um so like in outpatient the outpatient groups if things came up about well how do you what does it look like to change people places and things and then I would talk about what it was like for me and how I’ve seen other people do it when I went into the hospital you know I’d be like first the doctors and stuff would have to be okay ask the person if they’re okay with a peer coming in and person in recovery to talk to them and if they said yes then I would go in I’d just be like hey how’s it going you know um I’m a person in recovery in the local community just want to let you know that there’s a lot of us out here we go to meetings we help each other if you ever want to go uh here’s you know information and just try to connect with people as um an individual person you know not like you’re a clinician or a doctor or counselor it’s just kind of like friends you know community members and um it really worked in a lot of ways it it was amazing to see so in like the family involvement meetings with Social Services is like The Advocate to sit next to somebody and talk about how we are capable of loving and taking care of children even though we might have drug charges and to give us a chance you know um you know learning about that stuff at the health department that’s what peers are I think in Maryland what I found out so that was back for me in 2012. and then I found out through all the trainings and stuff is that peers or people with lived experience family members of people who might have a mental health or substance use disorder or an ally Ally that understands the resources and supports the recovery movement but it’s been going on in Maryland for a long time like since the 80s with on our own the on our own mental health Advocates they’ve been using peers people with lived experience to help other people who have you know serious mental illness and how to be supporting and support each other in recovery so they’ve been doing it for a while there’s like right now there’s I think there’s an on our own or on our own affiliate in every County in the state but the substance use recovery peer stuff I think came more out of the overdose death crisis you know when um the health department brought in peers because you know the of the overdose death craze that’s what I think it was and what I found out there when I was sitting talking with them they didn’t understand the recovery community at all this Health Department which helped me when I was an adolescent so in my recovery story you know I had gotten arrested a bunch of times and the last time I got arrested I had to go to a counselor at the health department and it was a adolescent counselor who actually had lived experience but they wouldn’t call him peers he was just a counselor who also went to meetings and he believed in me and got me into treatment and I really believe that the health department is part of my you know the reason that I’m I’m doing so well but I mean because I got 33 years now but I never went back to the health department when I got like five years to say hey you guys thank you I’m doing good and nobody ever knocked on my door when I got 10 years and said Jennifer you’re doing so great what happened and you did it you know so it wasn’t so when I got back to the health department with 20 some years and I was like oh wow you guys don’t know that there’s like meetings around here full of people in recovery they’re like hundreds sometimes of people that have decades you know in recovery and they’re just like no they only see the beginning they only see our tragedies our you know when we’re in jail or need treatment or things are falling apart but they don’t get to see all the success stories that they were a part of and that I thought man you guys really need to see this but it gave them a perspective I think that is recovery real does it really happen where do all these people go that they you know and um it’s one of my favorite stories because it’s just ridiculous if you’re a 12-step member of of um n a so they’re like one day they brought me in because there’s like all this methadone Suboxone stuff they’re trying to get people on it and be more accepting of it because people are dying not being on it so one of the lead guys over there brought me in is like Jennifer we really need the community to come down off their stance on this abstinence thing could you meet with the president of the local Na and and have a conversation with them and I’m like oh dude you just don’t know at all there’s no president and they’re not going to listen to me anyway but it was like the gap between the people getting people into treatment and people in recovery was so big um so you know they actually really leaned in with bringing people in recovery to come be peers to bridge that Gap and I think that’s one of the beautiful things that peers do is bridge that Gap but anyway talking about peers well that’s kind of shocked me you were telling me you joined the Department of Health like you said 2012-ish I mean 12-step fellowship’s been around for like 80 plus years and they’re just finding out like hey Community helps these people like well I think they referred to a lot of 12-step fellowships forever but they just didn’t know how successful they were and they probably only see the people that fail at the 12-step fellowships and end up back in the health department for some reason or another like if if you go and you’re successful at your 12-step fellowship or your program you don’t usually go back to the health department for drug counseling or treatment you know what I mean so they only see the failures yeah where the repeat offenders you know or the people that come back and say well I tried that it didn’t work yeah if you didn’t notice uh Jason couldn’t be here with us today he had a family obligation and he will be back with us on the next episode so tune in next week and you’ll get to hear Jason and if he’s your favorite person on here you can skip this episode [Laughter]

for a while and substance use peers and it’s root you know the recovery Community when it comes to substance use recovery with the aana Celebrate Recovery Al-Anon naranon all the things it’s pretty vibrant and um alive but still Anonymous in a lot of ways um so anyway peers Maryland here um started to certify people to become peers I think in 2013. and the reason that I think they did that was because um there had to be a way of standardizing you know what is expected of a peer so somebody couldn’t just come in and be like yeah I got 25 years in recovery sure hire me and they’re all like ethically wrong and using and you know so you know the state was like we’re going to certify we were not the first state to do so I know in Georgia and Pennsylvania they have um Statewide systems of peer certification some states just certify mental health peers some certified substance use peers some do both Maryland does both um substance use and mental health peers all under one category and they call that behavioral health you know so to be certified in Maryland you have to have two years of verifiable recovery that means somebody out there is going to verify that you actually do have that time in your recovery pathway as you say what it is um and you have to kind of write a statement about what that is what that looks like for you um you know and have a couple of uh verifications on that um plus you have to take 46 hours of classes that are not counseling classes these are peer recovery specialist classes and then you have to have 500 hours in the role of a peer that can be verified by a supervisor whether you’re volunteer or working in it then you have to take a Class A test not a Class A test which is watched over you know you’re go to a place and you actually complete this test um you have class online so some of the classes are online so there’s a lot of classes that make up that 46 hours that you can choose from whether it’s recovery coach Academy or um you know uh depression and bipolar Alliance training it’s all on the website of the Maryland addiction and behavioral health professional certification boards website and it’ll tell you the classes and some of them are virtual and some of them are in person and you have to get all these pieces though of your application together you have to have your be a high school graduate or get your GED and then you send all this stuff in with 125 dollars you get your test you take your test you pass your test now you’re a certified peer for two years and then you’ll have to be re-certified after two years um by taking I think it’s 20 more CEUs and paying some more money and the CEO is just like classes yeah so a ceu is a continuing education unit ceu which is um there’s so many you have to have of these these classes will provide that’s awesome five 500 hours seems like a lot yeah it is it is a lot you can do peer work without being certified correct like this this title of peer is kind of General at the moment I guess so you can get a peer job without being certified but there’s benefits to being certified yeah so you can you know there’s the demand for peers is super high super super high um the demand for good peers that really do have recovery some training if you have any training under your belt you’re already Head and Shoulders over everybody who is applying for Pure jobs because peers work in hospitals jails they work with the cops on some of the lead teams which is law enforcement diversion teams they now work in drug courts their inpatient treatment Outpatient Treatment they’re everywhere because the evidence proves evidence shows that have an appear increases engagement and long-term outcomes and so there’s peers in Maryland are Grant funded a lot of times so um you’ll have to apply for a grant or be a government agency to employ peers unless you are a business a treatment organization that you want peers because it is improving your outcomes so you’re going to take a piece of your own profit margin to pay for the salary of peers other states they are Insurance reimbursable in some states so in Maryland in the in the beginning of 2023 Medicaid is going to pay um four peer Services reimburse organizations that use peers I think it’s it’s a rollout so I think in 2023 it’s only in um mat clinics you know medication assisted treatment clinics and um maybe inpatient treatment I might be getting that one wrong and then they’ll roll out more Medicaid reimbursement uh like in government agencies maybe or outpatient treatment centers and hospitals or whatever so that’s why the demand is even going higher because now there’s a way for private organizations to employ peers and not have it out of their own pocket now will they be Medicaid reimbursable for non-certified peers or just certified peers I think the way where is that not clear yet the way that they say the reimbursements they have to be certified right by this Maryland addiction and Behavioral Health certification board um you’ll have to be certified through them but they might I don’t know if they’ll do a lower reimbursement if they’re not quite certified because they’re in their a lot of jobs will say we we’re going to hire you uncertified but you have to be certified within the first six months or one year of employment right so so the benefits to being certified besides obviously you’re getting additional training and education but you’re also you make yourself basically more employable and worthy of a higher salary on how you say that you make yourself yeah worthy of a higher salary just like as if you were to get a degree in anything from college you’re going to increase you know your salary demand so yeah people are going to want they right now it’s a real high demand throughout the state for peers that didn’t even know anything about certification of you even know what that is that’s going to be a big win so a lot of places now are bringing people in and saying you don’t have to be certified yet but we expect you or want you to be certified within a certain amount of time and probably they’ll pay or remember are the classes free or they cost money or they cost money for most in the most part I mean there are some organizations like Voices of Hope that provide the trainings for free because when we do that because we’re non-profit and plus we believe that peers are a part of the solution to the addiction and overdose crisis that the country faces so you know we’re like let’s provide these for free to help people who are in recovery overcome barriers to becoming peers I mean it’s not the best paying job in a lot of places but like if you get hired at the health department you know what you do get is a a job with a pension and really good benefits you just don’t get a lot of money that’s is the downside of peer work but more and more people are paying higher for peers because they’re proven to be so invaluable um but I just want to point out in other states they don’t even have uh certification some states are so behind with the peer thing uh you know hopefully though I think it’s going to you know samsa which is the substance abuse mental health services Administration has been pushing out peers more and more and more over time and that’s a federal program right yep and because they do a lot of the funding they’re saying that um to get the funding for a lot of these grants you gotta include peers people with lived experience it’s also part of a trauma-informed care approach so a lot of you know places are talking about how trauma is a is at the core of a lot of our issues and uh you know having your organization incorporate trauma-informed care there’s some things you can do and one of the things is to have peers available for people to meet with and talk to and get support from yeah and so if I understand right you know you said some of the ways you got introduced to peer work and and what that role kind of looks like but in general for people trying to enter treatment the peer is someone that can kind of help you Advocate through some of the I don’t know what you want to call it the Maze of accessing treatment accessing resources but that isn’t like an authority figure or like a parole person or a social worker or whatever they’re like a fellow you know for lack of a better word like a fellow traveler that’s you know also in recovery that’s going to help you navigate since they have some experience yeah yeah they that’s that’s right exactly it you know it’s like we know the resources um we know what it’s like to be in the beginning not knowing anything being scared and just having that person with you that’s been through through it um that understands what it feels like and can just give you options help you figure out the options not tell you what to do and how to do it and also kind of advocate alongside you in case you feel like you’re not being heard it it’s really been beneficial for a lot of people yeah [Music] this episode has been brought to you in part by Voices of Hope Inc a non-profit recovery organization made up of people in recovery family members and allies together members strive to protect the Dignity of those that use drugs and those in recovery by advocating for treatment harm reduction and support resources and mentoring please visit us at www.voices of hopemaryland.org and consider donating to our calls


and that’s I guess what I was thinking with like that’s where the ethical training and a lot of the possible issues with people that aren’t really trained up on you know the certification process like the job of a peers and to go in and tell someone hey I did this and you need to do this and this is what you got to do and if you’re not going to do this then I’m not going to help you it’s to be like an advocate or a or a support to help them figure out their path yeah a lot of the training is actually about recognizing and honoring multiple Pathways of recovery you know so a lot of peers will come to the work saying oh I’m just going to sponsor all these people and it’s like well nope you’re not a sponsor uh you can’t be one in fact anybody that you serve but you can help people find sponsors if that’s what they want because you’re expected to know the recovery community and have connections in in the community and know about all the different fellowships and treatment options and know that everybody’s different one size does not fit all and that can really challenge people who come to this work especially initially um you know you take somebody who’s like hardcore you know n a and then you’re like okay well you’re gonna talk to people and help them get connected to AAA and celebrate recovery in all paths and even medication or um you know church and there’s some training that has to go along with that right for sure and I think for most of us that’s you know at least for me and a lot of people that I talk to like you get clean you get into recovery and you’re like man I’m gonna go help everyone I know you know that’s also struggling and just tell them they just do exactly what I did and they’ll be fine and that’s not really true that’s right you know so voices I hope came as a I guess a connection of peer or organization of peers to try to connect the recovery Community to treatment resources and what is that process been like wow oh yeah yeah that’s what exactly what happens when I was at the health department the dude who runs the place while the deputy dude um was like Jennifer did you know there’s these recovery Community organizations throughout the country um you know we’re going to be showing this Anonymous people movie throughout all the different towns of our County and we watch the anonymous people moving if you haven’t watched it please do it’s probably at your local library in that movie it showed people in recovery in 12 steps and family members and to church people coming up and out of anonymity to advocate for the rights of people in recovery and for the rights of people who use drugs because if we don’t do which somebody else is and who else is saying they are the recovery Community is people who are prophetizing off addiction oftentimes it’s treatment organizations they’re like yeah we’re recovery community because the recovery Community is quiet and we’re not saying anything we’re just minding our own business while we watch people go to jail for um you know longer than people who molest kids as we see you know people suffer and try to get into treatment organizations that die on the street cold because there’s a three-week waiting bed for I mean a waiting period for a treatment bed that we stay silent when people are ashamed or um put on Facebook you know when they commit crimes and to try to get drugs and they’re just shamed and and you know lots of things and we stay silent and there’s some people who choose not to because um people’s lives are depending on it and if we don’t who will so there were a couple of people who were peers or people who wanted to be peers there were some family members who um lost their loved one to addiction and were pissed off about the way that the system worked when they tried to get their loved one help it was horrific so we started meeting every Wednesday and we caught ourselves you know we made a vote and it was Voices of Hope I think there was like five of us maybe and we just met every Wednesday saying well what do we want to do there was like four things that we decided we wanted to do one was we needed to make sermons exchange legal in Cecil County um no one you know seeing what people were using drugs with is disgusting and they were getting diseases and it’s like what the heck why is this only legal in Baltimore City and Washington County of all places so we wanted to do that we wanted to have a 24 7 Recovery Community Center where people could go and hang out and talk to each other because we we all felt like we knew what it was like at two in the morning early in recovery and just need somebody to talk to so we didn’t go back out a place where meetings could be held big ones and events like soda bars and you know we you know pool tables is what we imagined and then the third thing we wanted was to have an in-county detox because we don’t have one and we still don’t and then the other thing was we wanted young people in recovery to have mentors and supporters to turn to that were safe and we’ve seen a lot of young people go into the fellowships and um be hurt so we wanted to try to do something to create a system of safety for new people and so yes that’s how it kind of started and then you know in 2018 we got our first grit and the rest has been history but it’s all about peers one of our approaches all right if we can talk people into coming out of anonymity and then you know help train them and actually help them get good jobs oh man the system will really change and come to find out that’s the hope of the feds they’re like if we Empower all these people in recovery to use their voice and change the system the systems will be changed that people will be helped and um and we’ve seen that you know it’s it’s been really cool what’s the difference between a um a peer and a recovery coach because one of the websites you cited was recovery coach something something so a recovery coach um sometimes you’ll hear these words peer Recovery Specialists so if you’re looking for a job you look up peer Recovery Specialists it could be peer um recovery support specialist um peer support special recovery support specialist okay I’m recovery coach so in essence they’re the same thing but with a recovery coach to be kind of like certified it just means that you completed a 30-hour class called recovery coach Academy and um that’s all you know you might have done other things but you’re not a certified peer recovery specialist That’s taken more classes and did that 500 hours in the role and got the test and have verified recovery you’ve come as a recovery coach you might have just completed that recovery coach Academy it’s 30 hours because I’ve heard that any old dude can just come forward and be like I’m a recovery coach like me Jenny I could just be like I’m a recovery coach now yep you know so you don’t have to get the certification but it sure looks nicer if you do right that’s accurate right yeah I think most places know that anybody can take recovery coach Academy and they’re they’re kind of like looking a little deeper because people have been burned organizations have been burned by someone just saying yeah I’m in recovery I’ve taken recovery coach Academy and I’m a recovery coach I see my certification from when I completed my class but that doesn’t mean you’re you know you’ve had the ethical training or that you’re even verified that you have that recovery you say you do right so you know just 500 hours of service can that be like sponsorship no it has to be in the role of a peer in an organization that uses peers and yet you’re supervised by somebody who is a registered peer supervisor through the m-a-b-pcb that a Maryland addiction and behavioral health professional certification board you have to take a class to be a registered peer supervisor um and work in an organization that’s in your supervising peers and if you want to be a peer you have to do your 500 hours in the role underneath the super one of those registered peer supervisors so you pretty much have to get a job someplace or volunteer yep okay okay yeah to commit to an organization if this is like the path you want to take yeah which is why most places are like you can be certified after we hire you it’s okay okay yeah because it’s hard for people to but Voices of Hope we have um a whole training program where you might work somewhere that doesn’t have a registered peer supervisor and through a mou a memorandum of understanding you can do that work with that organization and we’ll provide the supervision so that you can get your 25 hours of supervision over that 500 hours in the roll is complicated so that’s why we brought in community health worker Community Health worker is a certification that you can get that doesn’t have a recovery time requirement what it does have is a a hundred hours of training 40 hours internship and a hundred question test so you know if somebody’s newer in recovery we often suggest go for the community health worker and get that underneath your belt and then you know so you’re still working on your two years to take the cprs do you have to be abstinent for these for a peer will no okay who judges that like your recovery is what you say it is um in your application you just have to be able to describe it you know what is it how do you maintain it who verifies it so you can be on medication you can be in mental health recovery you know uh it’s um a process of change you know that you’re involved with and that you’ve been involved with for at least two years it’s verified what can’t appear do a peer cannot be a sponsor a peer cannot be a counselor a peer should not be a pastor while they’re in a pure role you know those are the crossing of the streams so you have to stay out of any other dual role nice Ghostbusters record her yeah so those are the things peers can’t do um they need to know their role they know they’re lean and staying they can’t be a doctor they can’t suggest medications or legal advice you know but they can help people look at the options and talk about how they feel and what they feel like you would want to feel how do you feel that your life what your life needs to be um everybody like you’re trained everybody’s the expert in their own lives and we’re just trying to help people unfold that and whatever that looks like and then help connect them to the resources to make it happen and it’s pretty cool none of us had peers though because you guys have double-digit sobriety I think that the counselor that I was engaged with was a peer um he was doing a dual role but they didn’t call it peer back then yeah and I don’t I don’t remember exactly I’ve had counselors that were in recovery and counselors that weren’t um but even that I’m sure they were more just representative of their particular pathway of recovery they probably were not educated in all these other ways hey that was mine yeah like so I started an AAA but there was no peers just hanging out with my 12-step friends and then I do recovery Dharma now we have I don’t know we just I guess some people call them like Dharma buddies we just support each other that’s like up here you know like we we’re friends with each other we talk about how we can apply Buddhism to our recovery but we don’t we don’t use the word peer and we’re certainly not certified that’s just that’s a program specific yeah I think the difference too is that a peer is a service relationship um even though we’re more equal than any other it’s still service relationship it’s about the person that I’m serving if it ever becomes about me and that person uh then we’re probably friends which happens but I need to step away from the pure role and tell my organization that hey we’re friends now because that happens like I can meet somebody in the hospital or the jail and they if they choose to go to the 12-step Fellowship that I’m in and they’re doing it I’m doing it we’re seeing each other and we’re you know we’re probably going to grow old together and that’s okay in our recovery Community but I probably shouldn’t be their peer anymore I’ll need to tell my organization if that person’s still involved in the service relationship of my organization that they need another peer to be assigned because the boundaries are super important like of as a peer if I’m your peer there’s a service uh relationship you’re a recipient of services I mean I’m better than you or anything but it’s about you but sometimes I benefit too because we’re still growing in recovery together that’s the mutual kind of magic of pure work but at the end of the day I have a responsibility um paid professional in essence that has a role to serve that person or even volunteer it’s the boundaries boundary is the word I was thinking of too is that in the training because that’s lots of boundaries yeah because I mean it took me several years to you know two years was not enough to two years of abstence was not enough to teach me about boundaries and Recovery I needed more than that yeah I think we all still do I mean yeah well and so if I understand kind of in general how peers work um let’s say a parent or a family has a kid that is struggling with addiction they want to try to get them into treatment so they might go either to the health department or to a place like voices or whatever and they’re going to walk in and say I don’t know my kid’s on heroin we need to get him help what do we do in the past it’s probably been they’ve gotten the opinion of whoever was sitting there in front of them at the time so that opinion might be oh you need abstinence base you need to go to a 28-day rehab and you need to do this or it might be oh you need to go on you know a medicated assistive recovery path and this is what works and this is what you do and the idea of a peer is that someone can say well let’s talk about it let’s look at what some of your options are these are your different options these are some things you can do here’s maybe some of the differences and then let’s help you figure out which one of those is going to work yeah in an ideal situation the person wants treatment and they will get a peer and then the family would get their own peer that’s a family peer because they got to get better too you know so um connected to all the family resources Al-Anon or whatever yeah and for us it’s like connect them to Maryland Coalition of family families and we’ll connect them to Al-Anon and naranon all those things so that their computer is not just for the addicts but for family members and stuff like that as well absolutely yes and it’s I think life-changing for families when they have their own they have their you know they’re focusing on them because it affects everybody oh my gosh it’s traumatic right as a family member watching somebody you love die or choose to die or you know it’s super traumatic but you know even if your loved one chooses not to be in recovery you can still get better and learn how to live your life You know despite that it’s so important I don’t know how anybody does this stuff alone I guess the first time I was introduced to a peer system this and it wasn’t even a drug recovery thing I was still active alcoholism when I had my daughter with Down syndrome and I was introduced to the Down Syndrome Association and so through there I met essentially peers and like oh this is how I was still a sick person so but I mean this is how you know people will support you and get you through so it got to the point where um eventually I did fine recovery and um I’m like how does anybody do any of this [ __ ] alone like you know uh whether it’s like parenting or recovering from drugs or dealing with a like a child’s disability like you know we we all need peers I think there is a movement lately for mentorship have you guys picked up on that like more like in the popular media I think it was like a social network for looking for mentors didn’t work mentors or uh so it could be any topic you know like business uh creative Pursuits um travel it was you could find a mentor what’s the name of that website I feel like in the past five years there has been more of a like a trend towards like go find somebody who’s done it already it makes sense right [Music]

so you kind of briefly glossed over some but what are some of the roles that peers are being used for like you mentioned I guess the treatment centers police stations yeah that lots of those places so it’s more than I thought I was just thinking places like voices I didn’t think about all those other places so when I left the health department I got a job as a peer Community coordinator with the administrative service organization of Maryland Medicaid that’s a lot of words there a lot of words and as a as a person who kind of worked for like Medicaid or you know part of it the system what I was there to do was um they would identify high intensity users of the system what they call them high intensity other hospitals on stuff called frequent flyers but these were called the high intensity users of this system and so they were going to hospital here and outpatient here and then back to a treatment and over and over is like millions of dollars on these few people throughout the state that were just falling through the cracks through all over the place and we would try to get a hold of those people and go meet with them and talk with them and be like we want to help you stay connected to what’s going to work for you so insurance companies will use peers like that um man there’s so many places that use peers there’s a a peer Network that is totally virtual um some of the higher end rehabs would be like as a part of your your treatment stay here your thirty thousand dollars when you get discharged we’re going to enroll you in this virtual peer thing and you can just talk to your peer on on phone or by virtual meeting and so you could be a peer that just talks to people on the phone and through the computer all the time all day but the peers in the emergency department you know sitting with people and just talking with them it’s and in treatment centers it’s a little tough because some treatment centers have higher counselors A’s or counselors techs and uh they caught me but they’re really want them to be peers and this is another reason why certification is so good because if you’re if I’m working for a absence-based treatment center and a person is there doesn’t want to be there it’s not working for them as an employee of that Treatment Center I’m supposed to be talking and I’m not leaving and to really accept this label them as non-compliant or whatever um you know but as a peer the certification the the expectations on appear truly through all our tests and training is that okay this doesn’t work for you what do you think will what and help let’s get you connected to that whether that Treatment Center it’s that Treatment Center or not to see how there’s a a little um

so for if I’m a peer working in a methadone clinic and my person’s like I only want to come off and I’m like okay let’s go talk to the doctor and see what they say is that clinic going to be happy you’re doing that probably not but if you’re a certified peer um you’re talking to them about what they want to do or vice versa even it’s important that people have that person to turn to and I think that is what the state and the system wants us to do is to just because if you don’t meet people where they’re at they’re going to fall through so some of these programs they have a pier that rides around with cops sometimes in certain cities and when they come up to a situation that’s non-violent that’s drug-related the peer might talk to them about hey what about treatment or what’s going on here and you know be able to talk to somebody without worrying am I going to get charges am I going to make it worse and that peer can oftentimes either connect them to treatment or at least help that person engage with law enforcement kind of be that buffer of uh you know so it doesn’t go really South if you have a friend there that’s just trying to help you walk through it um I’ll say when I went to the hospital and they would have people on the floor that was a visiting peer at the hospital they would have people at the floor it was in different stages of um illness due to chronic drug or alcohol use and they would have Team meetings and in the morning and I would say as the peer little Jennifer and with all these doctors and nurses and they’re talking about these people and um when the person had an alcohol problem they would look at me and be like and Jennifer you know what do you think or they wouldn’t look at me and I’d be like excuse me excuse me doctors can I just talk about you know did we talk to this person so I’m representing that person because I didn’t get a chance to even go to talk to them and meet them and see what they wanted but at least they’re letting appear in the room to be like well hey did you ever ask them what they wanted and they’re just sometimes they’re like no we didn’t um you know or what’s the issues at home that’s you know it sounds like there might be a reason they don’t want to go back um so that that’s a place where peers would be you know as an advocate with somebody who’s not there which sometimes you’ll see in in court um and appears there in court and the lawyers and the judge and they’re talking about this person and the peer can be like well have we tried this and I talked to him and and they said this and because they the people in the room respect me as a person in recovery which I oftentimes will have to remind them I am a person in recovery people do change and you know and they respect me than me speaking on their behalf they kind of automatically respect them oh yeah they’re a person too but sometimes they’re like you know Jennifer you’re different um these people don’t want help like you did and like your husband and your friends these are people which you know I’ve had different organizations I’m like no they’re not different please you know give them a chance so that’s a place where peers of peers and homeless shelters um I want to say that what I’ve seen is that the peers who work with substance use and the peers that work with mental health recovery um I think any you got to be careful with where you work because somewhere some places don’t understand the role of a peer and they will use you as a case manager they will put you in positions that you shouldn’t be in like trying to counsel and be a clinician and that sounds like where that training and certification is going to come in you get that education you know like this isn’t really my role or this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing but it’s so intimidating imagine somebody who’s new and you know new to this field they’ve been in recovery for like five years or whatever and they’re like oh my gosh I’m in here with the doctors and the counselors in there at the same paying rehab facility and then they’re asking me to do something that the training told me that I’m not supposed to do um that’s a good heads up it can get messy and that’s you know so I’m also if you’re looking for a job as a peer stay away from any organization that only has a peer Workforce of one um because there will become it’s highly likely that you’ll experience peer drift that they will push you in what’s called peer drift so peer drift is when we’re drifting out of our rollers appearing into the clinician’s role when we’re talking more about diagnosis and labels then recovery when we’re uncomfortable talking about our personal stories and we rather just focus on other people’s and use words and you know language that is clinical um it’s it’s a tough job to be in for sure in some locations so if you’re new to it try to get a job where there’s a lot of other peers that can support you in doing peer work for sure how’s the pay hey if you’re going to it right now if you’re going to like a state job a Health Department job where they have benefits and pension and all that good stuff it’s going to be pretty low um I’m going to say you might get lucky if you’re very new at 16 an hour up to maybe 18 maybe 19. now in the city you might even get up to 22 or 23 dollars an hour we Advocate very strongly to pay our peers well so it voices a hoop you can start off I think it’s like 18 and go up to like 22 and then you know there’s a lot of opportunity for growth if you have some desire to do so and then it can go up from there but uh I think outside of Maryland it’s probably really low I think the Medicaid reimbursement I heard is really really low so uh yeah not so good so what are some of the biggest challenges for peers I guess it sounds like the ethical stuff seems pretty challenging being careful of the jobs that you get what you’re being asked to do I think the biggest challenge is being in recovery that’s our biggest challenge um and staying in recovery right isn’t that any person’s challenge yeah it seems like a challenge to anyone that works in the field especially I mean at least in my time in recovery like we’ve seen people they come in they get a job at the rehab or the health department or whatever and somewhere along the way it’s like that becomes their recovery or that’s all they’re doing for recovery and then they’re not in recovery anymore that’s what I’ve heard over and over like so when I I ran a well Refuge recovery meeting at the big rehab here and at one time I thought maybe this was a path for me like working in the recovery field and that was his like so I made friends with one guy that worked there and he said working there that that was the biggest challenge was yeah his work is this what you just said his work became his recovery path and he started going crazy again and he felt it so he had to like re-up going to 12 steps outside like separate from work and um that actually scared me a little bit because I’m like I don’t know if I have time for both so I still don’t work like because I don’t think I have time to to manage a recovery and work and be mom I could do this though I’m here on the podcast I know I try to do some of that work in like rehab um when I had five years and I couldn’t do it it was it was just like I was going to work and helping it was like a like a program Tech helping all those sick people at work you know I was really sick at times I’m still early in recovery and going home and dealing with sickness and going to meetings and hearing sickness I’m like I can’t get away from the freaking sickness um you know I need to some Earth people in my life some normal stuff and so I think with 20 years you know it was easier but I think and everybody’s different I just want to throw that in there that was just my thing challenge for everybody everybody’s different I think that it’s just more noticeable maybe when they’re in treatment um when we’re in treatment you know because when working in a garage you know it’s just disappear yeah I don’t see them anymore right but I think the biggest challenge is staying in recovery for sure and then the boundaries boundaries uh with the people we serve with co-workers because we’re not selling shoes we’re like talking about really things that are very important to us as people our whole new way of life um things that maybe we were drilled into that we had to do for our program and trying to be okay and supportive of somebody doing it another way getting resentments at work which spillover into recovery you know because we’re on like recovery Community I think it can be lethal making sure that recovery grows as we grow our application of recovery those are some of the biggest risks I think yeah I can imagine that emotional investment’s probably difficult too because you are coming into Advocate and and get involved with people in their lives and then you know I’m an addict so I know like his addicts we tend to like oh well then maybe you can do this for me or that for me or you know we start asking for more and more and more and then you’re pushing someone into some really unethical places like hey why don’t you come take me to the store on Saturday and like and what’s crazy is that a lot of people are doing that already in their personal recovery they’re letting people stay on their couches they’re giving them rides they’re already crossing a lot of boundaries in their own personal recovery so they think oh my gosh doing peers I’ll be paid to do this and then they get is appearing like no you can’t do that you cannot do that we have resources to do that you’re not allowed to take them home with you you’re not allowed to lend them your car or money and if they’ve been doing that and now so then they’ll do it behind my back right and they’ll be like oh what are you doing or and then they you know get robbed or or whatever um or worse it’s uh so that can be a definite challenge so I just encourage everybody in recovery look at your boundaries y’all where are your boundaries at I was always so hopeful I thought once I could set it and forget it it’s constantly evolving that like if I ever speak in a meeting about balance and boundaries that’s like the Nemesis like that’s not the thing I thought I’d be challenging I thought it’d be like getting over the alcohol craving no it’s balance and boundaries right that’s the hardest part yeah so what type of people do you think make good candidates for peers and is there a personality that does seems to do better yeah I think people who have um substantial recovery that’s number one you know um but by the time people get substantial recovery they’re already starting their career it’s so hard to grab them back to a low paying job and say please go work here so substantial recover be number one and then number two is just like a positive attitude um loving people you know open you know kind sincere and compassion in it faithful that kind of stuff and people who are really connected to the recovery Community whatever your recovery pathway so if you’re recovering because you’re staying home in your bedroom and you’re reading a lot of books not a good peer um if you’re you know about the different fellowships and who’s doing what and where and how you can connect to that recovery house or or that food pantry you know and you’re willing to get out there and and know more people for to gather those resources up that’s great you know because you can be an ally and be a peer so that’s a person who is not in recovery they don’t have a family member with a behavioral health disorder but they’re just somebody who’s passionate about helping um people in recovery State you know stable and support them but the thing that we’re looking for for allies is that do you know the the local community do you know the resources if you don’t then it’s like oh you know maybe volunteering with the um the SPCA would be a better idea you know so it sounds like connection to local resources and recover the different recovery Pathways is really important um I guess lastly what would you recommend or say to anyone that gets wants to get started as a peer or is it interested in becoming a peer how would you recommend they look into it or dip their toe in maybe yeah all right so go find your local recovery Community organization rco it could be a wellness and Recovery Center like on our own because some a lot of areas don’t have recovery Community organizations but find them and then friend them on Facebook see what they’re doing show up to what they’re doing um you know go to an event see if you can volunteer feel it out you know how do you feel doing it and if you just start showing up and volunteering before you know it they’re going to be using you for all kinds of stuff and you’ll trust me

you know but uh if you I would definitely do that too often people make this decision they want to be a peer and they just jump in all the classes and pay all the money for the classes and then they’re not uh trying it out and connecting to where would you work you know I say if in your mind you want to work you want to be up here at the Lock up the jail that’s your vision because you came from there and you know that you could help there of course you’re not going to be able to really volunteer there so get to the local recovery Community organization or Wellness Center near there or near where you live and volunteer and and see what’s going on there’s definitely a need for you if you’ve got good recovery that’s what it’s about this was totally interesting like I mean now I have a bigger picture like I’ve known about piers and it’s like tossed around but I didn’t know like how much work goes into it it really is worth celebrating when somebody gets certified and I know we’ve celebrated around here but you know it’s really worth celebrating it’s quite an accomplishment and I you know like you’ve done explained it’s totally necessary and lastly but I will say this lastly because I know we want to do this on a future episode but if you can kind of briefly tie in how like the stages of change come in and the role appears and all that like or is that too big a question no it’s awesome so I think it is worth another episode of just talking about that um but you know what we have found at Voices of Hope is getting Services together so we’re totally pure run we are pure run there’s no counselors or lawyers or anything above us and voices of hoop and we are 42 people in recovery family members are allies that are running this show and so our services and programs are ones that we want that we think is going to work best and we have built our services peer engagement services around the stages of change model which is you know pre-contemplation contemplation preparation action and maintenance and having peers all along the way and what is really unique about that is we’ve been doing this now since 2018 and we are noticing out in the country is that you know either there’s harm reduction or there’s recovery oriented Services there don’t come together and meet and Voices of Hope is both we don’t do recovery services without talking about harm reduction and we don’t do harm reduction without talking about recovery and um it’s so important and it’s been so beneficial they’d say that people who engage with syringe service programs are five times more likely to enter treatment than those who don’t and that’s because they’re usually well I’m going to say for us it’s because we’re building relationships with peers using peers to talk to people who use drugs or people who are still struggling people who’ve been there who understand who give hope and we’re not pressuring people to to do treatment and go now we’re just like how are you and you know I see your wound there we got a nurse you wanna see the nurse and you need you know plank it you know there’s a shelter if you want to ride we can get you into a shelter I used to be there I lived right over there you know behind that store but I went to treatment and then a recovery house and doing a lot better if you ever want to talk about that um you know we got all the things that you need to do it but how are you doing today I missed you here last week so that’s what peers do we build those relationships and the stages have changed just seem to naturally some take longer than others go from there that and that compassionate empathetic approach and engagement has a force all its loan and I want to say it’s God his love for people coming through people that you know move people along the stages of change it doesn’t always happen but it’s definitely been really a miracle to watch and see oh yeah that was great uh is there anything else you want to add is there anything we missed do you think is important did we miss Jason still we miss Jason yeah he would have just said a whole lot about the compassionate part of care and how important that is because we just talked about that recently so yeah awesome hopefully he’s he’s having a good time today yeah thank you guys for talking about it appreciate it thank you if anybody here wants to know more about peer recovery specialist certification or Community Health worker certification you can go check out our website at Voices of Hope maryland.org we have all kinds of classes you can take uh some a lot of them are virtual these days uh check it out if you just want to visit we’d love to have you yeah and a lot of times if you get in early enough the ones through voices are free so you may be able to save some money that way so yeah uh thank you guys for listening if you’re interested in becoming a peer in your local area volunteer check it out see what you can do to help and uh maybe it’ll be your next career path so thank you have a good week [Music] [Applause]

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