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Peer Support:

What is an Adult Peer-Run Organization/Collaborative?

Wellness Collaborative of NY - IPA

By Rebecca Evansky, Executive Director, Wellness Collaborative of New York, Independent Practice Association (WCNY-IPA)

A sincere thank you to PeerTAC for providing the opportunity to share on this topic.  My name is Rebecca Evansky, and I am the Executive Director of the Wellness Collaborative of New York, Independent Practice Association, and I’m an Advisory Board Member for PeerTAC. Maura Kelley is a contributing author and represents the IPA as the Western Regional Planning Network Coordinator. Maura is also the Behavioral Health Peer Liaison for Western New York Independent Living.

What is a Peer-Run Organization?

These organizations have leadership, board members and staff that have lived experiences with major life disruptions due to behavioral health issues. According to SAMHSA, these organizations have a diverse set of practices, but research has recognized four basic types: mutual support, community building, providing services, and advocacy. Some consumer-operated services assume all four of these functions; others emphasize only some of them.

Who Provides Services in an Adult Peer-Run Organization

Peer specialists are experts in building relationships and offering hope during a time of need. Peer support has decades of history and research to support the success that individuals have in seeking and receiving non-judgmental, mutual support.

In many Peer-Run Organizations, the peer support staff are now required to become New York Certified Peer Specialists (NYCPS). The first step in the process is to successfully complete 13 online core courses through the Academy of Peer Services. The next step is to apply for certification through the New York Peer Specialist Certification Board. The application requires letters of reference, a high school diploma, and attestation of lived experience and agreement to adhere to the Code of Ethical Conduct. Those who become certified are also expected to comprehend and apply the National Practice Guidelines for Peer Specialists.

What is a Collaborative?

A Collaborative in this context is a network of Peer-Run Organizations and programs providing support and health connections that are innovative, peer-run, holistic, and trauma-informed. The benefit of belonging to a Collaborative is the ability to share and advance toward common goals, develop best practices across multiple organizations, and have a stronger voice in advocacy.

What is the Wellness Collaborative of New York?

The Wellness Collaborative of New York, Independent Practice Association (WCNY IPA) includes twelve member organizations spread across New York State. The members of the WCNY IPA are the Peer-Run Organizations who established our strong NYS Peer workforce and network. 

Through advocacy, collaboration, education, and informational outreach, the WCNY IPA members established the existing Pillars of Peer Support, peer philosophy, and laid the groundwork for the NYS Peer Certification process, including our ethical standards for the delivery of Peer Services in NYS. With a mission that highlights compassion, empowerment and mutual respect, individuals who reach out for support are connected with a trained Certified Peer Specialist.

What Else Does the WCNY-IPA provide?

This statewide comprehensive Independent Practice Association (IPA) addresses the expressed needs of those they serve through peer-to-peer and peer group support, independent living skills, institutional transitioning, advocacy, transportation, and housing. WCNY members meet the identified needs of individuals by being present at the forefront of hearing the concerns and issues presented. They work to continually increase individuals’ awareness of available options, access to peer support, and improve abilities of those who have extensive behavioral health concerns in the community.

Our members’ services range from individual support, groups, and community reconnection after an inpatient stay or incarceration. They provide links to behavioral health services, physical and primary care, substance use disorder treatment, community-based support that includes housing, transportation, educational and vocational training opportunities. Our members work with Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC’s), licensed clinics, and provide crisis-diversion services as well.

Services are embedded in communities and often assist individuals in need of traditional and non-traditional behavioral health services. They have supportive housing programs, case management, and offer community and professional training.

WCNY IPA members have come together as a collective to leverage their experience, collaborating to improve care and practices. They have shared and created opportunities for innovative improvements in how peer support is offered and work to expand the peer workforce to support the growing needs in our communities.

How do they make this happen?

Our member programs are located across the state and provide programs and services on site at their organizations and off site in community settings. They also contract with or provide technical support for a variety of organizations who wish to have peers on site at a partner location. Examples are county mental health programs, hospitals and behavioral health centers, criminal justice facilities and other community-based settings where individuals may benefit from additional support from someone who has walked their same path.

If you are interested in learning more about how Peer-Run Organizations can help with your Peer Support Services program or to just connect for more information or technical assistance, please reach out to connect with us.

Learn More About the WCNY-IPA:
Wellness Collaborative of New York Independent Practice Association

Learn More About Adult Peer Run Programs:
SAMHSA Consumer Operated Services: Evidence-Based Practice

Other Sources:
SAMHSA Build Your Own Program, PeerTAC Directory of Adult Services, Academy of Peer Services, New York Peer Specialist Certification Board, Code of Ethical Conduct for Peer Specialists, National Practice Guidelines for Peer Specialists and Supervisors