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.: Recovery Peer Specialists

The process of certifying and thus credentialing consumers as "peer specialists" is based upon one very basic but important truth. The act of people who have had similar experiences with mental illness provides:

Encouragement; Hope; Assistance; Guidance; and Understanding.

This one on one approach has been proven to be a very effective tool in empowering individuals dealing with mental health issues. This empowerment process is effective because it is based on empathy - not sympathy. It is especially important at the onset or diagnosis of an individual's illness because it offers insight and understanding into one of the world's most misunderstood and mysterious illnesses. Mental illness also carries the stigma of judgmental myths. This stigma can often become more problematic for the individual than the illness itself, because it destroys the very fabric of human worth.

The Department of Children and Families Mental Health Program has contracted with the Florida Certification Board to develop the process and structure for consumers to meet their strict certification standards, This is a valuable and cost-effective way to both assist consumers and family members through their recovery and resiliency, while also promoting employment for individuals and families with mental health needs

The certification process is as follows:

Application - The self-declared consumer applies to be a certified peer specialist.
Selection - They then go through an intensive selection process. They then must complete several stages before they can become certified.
Training - Participants must complete a 40 hour training curriculum within a five day period.
Testing - After completion of the training, the participant must pass a mufti-faceted post test within 90 days of the training.
Criteria Met - Once an individual successfully completes the application, selection, training, and testing process, they have met the criteria necessary to become one of three types of certified peer specialists.

The three types of certified peer specialists include:
Adult Recovery Peer Specialists - adult consumers in recovery helping other adult consumers with mental illness through their recovery;
Family Recovery Peer Specialists - parents/caretakers who have navigated the children's mental health system helping other parents who have one or more children with serious emotional needs; and Substance Abuse Recovery Peer Specialists - adults who are in substance abuse recovery or who have been employed in the substance abuse field that helps other adults with substance abuse needs.

The development of these three certification position types will take about 12 months to complete and will be developed in stages. The first stage is the development of the certified Adult Recovery Peer Specialist. Stage 1 is approximately 30% percent developed and will be rolled out by February 2007. The state's certification of Adult Recovery Peer Specialists will be ready to be part of the community mental health system as employable and trained individuals by March 2007. The certification of the other two types of peer specialists will be completed thereafter.