History of Peer Support in Arkansas
Before 2017, peer recovery was virtually non-existent in the state of Arkansas. Peers were only working in treatment centers where a lack of understanding of the unique role of peers led to inappropriate job descriptions and an underutilization of Peers. However, within a year, as the opioid epidemic grew exponentially, so did the peer recovery field. Access to, and a demand for, Peer Support swept across Arkansas. Peer Specialists began to find employment in a variety of settings, including hospitals, jails, reentry centers, youth centers, the Division of Human Services, drug courts, recovery residencies, emergency departments, intensive outpatient, day treatment, recovery community organizations, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) clinics, health insurance providers, and veterans affairs (VA).
To help combat the opioid epidemic and overall rise in substance use and misuse, the U.S. government awarded financial assistance to states. This funding supported the development of the Arkansas Peer Model, developed by a small group of recovering individuals who envisioned change in the behavioral health system. The first Core training was facilitated by the Appalachian Consulting Group LLC., led by Ike Powell in January 2018. In April 2018, the state initiated certification courses for Peer Recovery Support Specialists and Core training leaders. Combining lived experience in recovery with education from state institutions, these courses became a cutting-edge model of peer recovery that is now known as the Arkansas Model.
In September 2018, peer specialists with a variety of pathways to recovery and experience in the behavioral health system gathered to develop the manual. Through collaboration with other professionals, they tailored a manual for a CORE training. The manual was adapted from the Appalachian Consulting Group and includes many of the same stories and strengths. Additionally, new sections focus on addiction recovery and mental health recovery. Through the training, peers explore the professional language of substance use disorders and the concept of addiction as disease. Furthermore, it includes practical exercises that prepare peers to act as change agents and advocates within their respective organizations.
In November 2018, 18 peer specialists became certified as trainers. Subsequently, the first Core training for the Arkansas Model was offered in March 2019. It included two separate classes for a total of 50 peers. Through its current efforts, Arkansas has identified the many different arenas and opportunities for workforce development to include the need for additional training to support seasoned Peer Specialists’ growth into a supervisory role. As the substance use Peer Specialist role is relatively new, the need for appropriate supervision is evident. Since the development of this SU Peer Support role in Arkansas the approach to supervision has been innovative and ever evolving. Currently, peer supervision has been provided outside the employing agency by a seasoned PS and within the organization by a clinician.
In July 2020, 10 seasoned peer specialists completed the Arkansas Peer Supervision training and became the first 10 PRPSs in the State of Arkansas. Peer specialist at any level (PIT/PR/APR) can now only have experience and supervision hours signed off on by PRPS. For the first time peers have a voice at every level of the process and contribute to all decisions made pertaining to peer support.
Please contact Kyle Brewer, BS, PRPS, Peer Specialist Program Manager, at 703.741.7686 x148, 703.253.3548, or [email protected].