As the oldest peer-run consumer advocacy agency in California, Cal Voices has successfully hired, trained, supported, and advanced the careers of peers working and volunteering in the Public Mental Health System (PMHS) for decades. We know what it takes to create lasting employment success for peers and we not only talk the talk, we have been walking the walk for over 30 years. Every single Cal Voices program is peer-run and 100% staffed by peers.
Cal Voices promotes Peer Support systems in all the programs we offer as a means to develop a relationship with everyone who we serve. It is our opinion that an introduction, explanation, and plan to recovery is best verbalized by someone who has walked that path. Peer Support has proven to be an effective cost saver in Mental Health costs to taxpayers by diminishing needs for emergency services, as well as helping recognizing life beyond diagnosis that needs more than therapeutic encouragement to be effective.
Through our OSHPD-funded Workforce Integration Support and Education (“WISE”) program, we have expanded beyond our own experiential knowledge, learning the conditions on the ground for peer employment statewide. Through our interactions with numerous counties and community-based organizations (CBOs) throughout the state and their peer staff, we have identified exactly what PMHS employers are looking for, the successes and setbacks these agencies and their peer staff encounter, and the current barriers to successful peer employment and career advancement. WISE has conducted 16 in-person key informant interviews and 18 peer staff focus groups, collected 280 peer staff surveys and 190 leadership surveys, and has performed hundreds of hours of technical assistance for PMHS employers and one-on-one career coaching with peer staff. The evidence we have gathered through our extensive data collection and research has confirmed what works and what doesn’t, and has informed our strategies and approaches
While California currently lacks an official statewide peer certification program, Cal Voices, in partnership with its national affiliate Mental Health America (NMHA), provides access to NMHA’s National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) program, the only nationally-recognized peer credential in the United States. The NCPS was developed to exceed the individual statewide standards used in public behavioral health systems around the country. Cal Voices worked closely with NMHA in the development of its NCPS program, providing subject matter expertise and feedback on the NCPS core competencies and exam content. NMHA recognizes WISE U’s 77-hour Peer Training Academy and 40-hour Advanced Certification Academy as approved training programs and Cal Voices as an authorized testing center, meaning we are currently the only organization in California permitted to both train peers for the NCPS exam and administer the exam to qualified peers.
National MHA’s informational booklet about its new NCPS credential program is available online here.
If you would like more information about peer support, or are interested in becoming a peer support worker check out the WISE website.