Adult/Older Adult > Peer Specialist Services
Bullet Pennsylvania Medicaid-Funded Peer Support Services
Bullet Defining Peer Support
Bullet Help for Developing Peer Support Services
Bullet Pennsylvania Peer Specialist Initiative
Bullet Pennsylavnia Standards for Peer Support Services
Bullet OMHSAS Approved CPS Training and Certification Vendors
Bullet Pennsylvania Peer Support Coalition
Bullet Resources
Bullet Web-based Training
Bullet Older Adult Initiatives


Pennsylvania Medicaid Funded Peer Support Services

In November 2004, the Pennsylvania Recovery Workgroup generated the following definition of recovery to guide service system transformation in this state:

"Recovery is a self-determined and holistic journey that people undertake to heal and grow. Recovery is facilitated by relationships and environments that provide hope, empowerment, choices and opportunities that promote people reaching their full potential as individuals and community members."

In 2005, the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) gave full endorsement to the definition and committed to transforming our own mental health system which included the development of services that facilitate and support recovery. Peer Specialist Services have been defined in Pennsylvania as one of these services.

Defining Peer Support

Based upon the fundamental principles of recovery, Peer Support Services (PSS) are specialized therapeutic interactions conducted by self-identified current or former consumers of behavioral health services who are trained and certified to offer support and assistance in helping others in their recovery and community-integration process. Peer support is intended to inspire hope in individuals that recovery is not only possible, but probable. The service is designed to promote empowerment, self-determination, understanding, coping skills, and resiliency through mentoring and service coordination supports that allow individuals with severe and persistent mental illness and co-occurring disorders to achieve personal wellness and cope with the stressors and barriers encountered when recovering from their disabilities.

Peer support is designed on the principles of consumer choice and the active involvement of persons in their own recovery process. Peer support practice is guided by the belief that people with disabilities need opportunities to identify and choose for themselves their desired roles with regard to living, learning, working and social interaction in the community. For this reason, the agreement of the individual to receive services is critical.  

On an ongoing basis, individuals receiving the service are given the opportunity to participate in and make decisions about the activities conducted. Services are self-directed and person centered with a recovery focus. PSS facilitate the development of recovery skills. Services are multi-faceted and include, but are not limited to, individual advocacy, education, development of natural supports, support of work or other meaningful activity of the individual's choosing, crisis management support, skills training, effective utilization.

Background of Peer Support Services in Pennsylvania

  • In 2003, the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) committed to transforming the mental health system to include the development of services that facilitate and support recovery. Peer Specialist Services have been defined in Pennsylvania as one of these services.
  • In 2004, OMHSAS received a 3-year Mental Health Systems Transformation Grant award from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The grant provided for the development and refinement of a training curriculum and peer certification process known as the PA Peer Specialist Initiative (PSI).
  • On February 22, 2007, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Pennsylvania’s Medicaid State Plan Amendment to include Peer Support Services as a component of rehabilitative services. This was accomplished through a broad partnership of individuals and organizations.
  • In 2008, OMHSAS partnered with The University pf Pennsylvania to develop a curriculum and training plan for Certified Peer Specialists to specialize in working with older adults.
  • Plans are in process for other peer specializations such as transitional age youth and forensics and further career development for peers.

Pennsylvania Peer Specialist Initiative - An Overview

Help for Developing Peer Support Services

Medicaid Funded Peer Support Services Frequently Asked Questions
Peer Support Services Service Description Review Checklist (updated February 2017)
Samples and Suggestions for Writing Your PA Medicaid-funded Peer Support Services Description Application
PROMISe Provider File Frequently Asked Questions
Peer Support Enrollment Checklist

Pennsylvania Standards for Peer Support Services

Peer Support Services, Medical Assistance Bulletin 08-07-09, May 22, 2007
Peer Support Services - Revised, OMHSAS Bulletin 16-12
Peer Support Services Peer Support Services Provider Handbook Pages

OMHSAS Approved CPS Training and Certification Vendors

Recovery Innovations of Pennsylvania
Recovery Innovations of Pennsylvania is part of Recovery Innovations, Inc., a national company whose mission is“To create opportunities and environments that empower people to recover, to succeed in accomplishing their goals, and to connect to themselves, others, and meaning and purpose in life.” Recovery Innovations, Inc. achieves this mission by:

  • Demonstrating examples of recovery oriented systems of care in AZ, VA, CA and; NC.
  • Conducting workshops and seminars that offer service providers recovery oriented program and service alternatives
  • Conducting Peer Employment Training classes
  • Conducting WRAP classes
  • Offering a wide range of training opportunities such as Advanced Peer Training, Supervisory and Leadership Training and more.

Please visit web sites and to learn more about our work and service options.


The Institute for Recovery and Community Integration
The Institute for Recovery and Community Integration works to introduce and advance communities' understanding of recovery and community integration as the catalyst for transforming individual lives, communities, and all levels of behavioral health systems in a culturally competent manner. We do this through:

  • Workshops on recovery
  • On-site Recovery Education Groups
  • Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Groups
  • Training WRAP Facilitators
  • Operating a Peer Specialist Certificate Program and Online Forum for peer specialists
  • Providing technical assistance to agencies, service providers, and municipalities.

Please visit our web site at

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OVR and OMHSAS Memorandum of Understanding for CPS Training

The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) are pleased to announce the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) stating the desire to work collaboratively to continue Certified Peer specialist (CPS) training in Pennsylvania. Under the terms of the MOU, funding may be provided in part by local OVR and in part by local mental health funding sources for OVR approved individuals/customers to participate in an OMHSAS approved 10-day, 75 hour CPS training program. The terms of the memorandum are available for review in entirety here. For any questions of further information please contact: OMHSAS, Bill Boyer (717-705-8297 or or OVR, Randy Loss, telephone (717-787-5136 or

Pennsylvania Peer Support Coalition


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Web-based Training

Advanced Peer Practices Online Training offered by Recovery Innovations
With the Advanced training the 90-day login cost is $200 and comes with one book (option of PDF or printed). Four additional books may be purchased for $35 each and 5 people can take this training together as a group. If five people split the cost it is then $68 per person for the training.

Promoting Competitive Employment: A Training for Peer Specialists 
Competitive Employment Training was designed for people interested in learning skills as a peer specialist to support the employment goals of others. Cost is $35 per participant.

Older Adult Initiatives

Development of Older Adult Peer Support Services
Persons aged 65 years and older represent the fastest growing age group in the United States. However, older adults are less likely to seek treatment from mental health professionals due to stigma and other barriers. Older adults with behavioral health disorders who do not receive treatment are at an increased risk for hospitalization, reduced physical functioning, and mortality.

In February 2007, the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) received approval to include Peer Support Services under the state’s Medicaid State Plan.  In 2008, OMHSAS received a federal Transformation Transfer Initiative (TTI) Grant to develop an older adult peer specialist training curriculum.  The goal of the TTI grant project was to train certified peer specialists to more effectively work with older adults.

The Certified Older Adult Peer Specialist (COAPS) training is an intensive three-day training developed by staff from the University of Pennsylvania with input from a statewide workgroup.  The three-day curriculum includes training modules on: normal aging, depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, stages of change, trauma, and cultural and ethnic perspectives and their relationship to recovery.
The COAPS initiative is designed to prepare a peer specialist workforce to meet the health and wellness needs of older adults who encounter behavioral health disorders.

In 2010, OMHSAS received a second TTI Grant.  TTI funds were used to conduct a COAPS Train the Trainer session along with targeted technical assistance designed to expand COAPS training capacity across the Commonwealth.  Two PA training vendors were selected through a competitive bid process. Each vendor contracted with four trainers who attended the Train the Trainer session.  As part of the TTI grant project, New Jersey sent two train the trainer candidates to the Pennsylvania COAPS training. A third training vendor has since been added.

To learn more about the COAPS program, including upcoming COAPS trainings, please visit the COAPS website at

OMHSAS Approved Older Adult Peer Training Vendors

Behavioral Health and Aging Coalition: 
Institute for Recovery and Community Integration:  
Peer Support and Advocacy Network:

OMHSAS received a third TTI Grant in 2012.  Grant funds were used to cross-train a class of 20 PA Certified Older Adult Peer Specialists in Wellness Coaching, a nationally recognized wellness curriculum developed by Dr. Peggy Swarbrick at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ, which is now part of Rutgers University).  Wellness Coaches are trained in overall health, nutrition, physical activity, sleep and rest, stress reduction, healthy environment, metabolic syndrome and smoking cessation.  Staff from the University of Pennsylvania cross-trained a class of 20 NJ Peer Wellness Coaches in the COAPS training curriculum.

COAPS/Wellness Coach internships were created under the third TTI Grant project.  COAPS/Wellness peer specialists interned in programs in senior high-rise housing and in a federally qualified health center (FQHC).  The COAPS internships successfully led to permanent employment for the Certified Peer Specialists who completed the internships.  More information about COAPS internships may be found on the COAPS website at  Internships are contingent upon funding.

Lessons learned from the COAPS internships would indicate there is broad application for the COAPS/Wellness cross-trained workforce.  In 2013, OMHSAS in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, Department of Aging, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and Experience Works, a Senior Community Services Employment Program began a three year employment expansion for COAPS aged 55 and older.

Older Adult Resource Documents

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