Peer Services: Peer Specialists

There are two types of certified peer specialists in Wisconsin.

  • Certified peer specialist: An individual with experience in the mental health and substance use services system trained to provide support to others struggling to find a path to recovery.
  • Certified parent peer specialist: An individual with experience raising a child with behavioral health challenges trained to utilize their experience navigating services in support of other parents.

Certification is awarded after successful completion of a training course and passage of an exam.

Certified peer specialists and certified parent peer specialists are employed by providers of mental health and substance use services. Ask your provider about whether a peer specialist is available to support your journey to recovery.

Training courses

Many organizations sponsor training courses for certified peer specialists and certified parent peer specialists. Visit the Wisconsin Peer Specialist website for information on upcoming certified peer specialist and certified parent peer specialist trainings.​

Strategic framework for the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative

This strategic framework was developed by DHS staff in collaboration with the Certified Peer Specialist Advisory Committee. It was published in May 2022. 

Strengths of the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative
  • Integration
    • Peer support is respected and valued. 
    • Individuals with lived experience are integrated into service delivery systems.
    • There is an active advisory committee with a diverse roster of members.
  • Partnerships
    • Trainers are skilled and passionate.
    • There is a collaborative relationship with vendors. 
    • Wisconsin Medicaid reimburses for the services provided by certified peer specialists and certified parent peer specialists in certain settings.
  • Leadership
    • The Wisconsin peer specialist initiative is a national leader in developing and using a training program focused on mental health and substance use information for certified peer specialists and certified parent peer specialists.  
    • There is support for the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative across DHS. 
    • The Wisconsin peer specialist initiative has access to many data points regarding the performance of the initiative to support data-informed decision-making on quality improvement efforts.
Aspirations for the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative
  • Assure all collaborators are valued, understood, supported, equipped, and educated as peer services evolve in Wisconsin, including the integration of peer services into crisis services.
  • Promote agency development of trainings for diverse populations and subspecialties of peer services.
  • Promote trainings conducted by diverse trainers.
  • Assure all peer specialists and recovery coaches have career paths that are supported by employers across the continuum of peer services.
  • Assure all peer specialists and recovery coaches and the services they provide are recognized by Wisconsin Medicaid and reimbursed widely in the public mental health and substance use services system. 
  • Assure state peer specialist training is readily and widely available to every qualified individual through a variety of avenues, including through all Wisconsin technical colleges. 
  • Assure mental health and substance use services systems development encompasses peer services, including peer specialists and recovery coaches, which are supported by DHS and the Certified Peer Specialist Advisory Committee. 
Opportunities for the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative
  • Collaborate with tribal agencies, county agencies, and other service providers regarding the value of employing peer supports across and the reimbursement potential. Educate collaborators on the unique capabilities of peer supports.
    • By August 31, 2022, DHS staff will collect information through an online survey of the tribal and county agencies that offer Comprehensive Community Services and Community Recovery Services regarding the perceived value of employing peer supports, the current reimbursement practices for peer supports, and the general knowledge of the potential of using peer supports.
    • By December 31, 2022, DHS staff will coordinate the evaluation of the Comprehensive Community Services and Community Recovery Services survey results, report the results to the DHS workgroup managing the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative and the Certified Peer Specialist Advisory Committee, facilitate a discussion with each of these groups, and prepare recommendations for how the DHS workgroup and the Certified Peer Specialist Advisory Committee can educate leadership and staff of Comprehensive Community Services and Community Recovery Services programs on the unique capabilities of peer supports.
  • Develop a planning workgroup comprised of subject matter experts to explore the potential of youth and young adult peer specialists. 
    • By June 30, 2022, DHS will assemble a workgroup comprised of subject matter experts to assess current youth and young adult peer support literature, resources, and models.
    • By December 31, 2022, the youth and young adult peer support workgroup will make recommendations to the DHS workgroup managing the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative and the Certified Peer Specialist Advisory Committee regarding a youth and young adult peer specialist model in Wisconsin.
  • Develop a data plan in conjunction with the Certified Peer Specialist Advisory Committee in order to make data-informed decisions regarding training, certification, employment, and system transformation.
    • By March 31, 2023, DHS will convene a committee of DHS staff who will meet with DHS data evaluators to outline what data is now collected regarding peer specialists in Wisconsin, to develop recommendations on what data needs to be collected, and to create a data plan to present to the DHS workgroup managing the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative and the Certified Peer Specialist Advisory Committee for feedback. 
  • Collaborate with Wisconsin Medicaid on expanding the use and role of reimbursement in peer supports in crisis services. 
    • By September 30, 2022, DHS staff will collaborate to identify additional provider types, including certified peer specialists, that may be used for mobile crisis teams, which would allow the services provided by these additional provider types to be reimbursed by Wisconsin Medicaid. 
  • Incorporate competencies and best practices for supervising peer supports and reimbursement options into the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative's employer toolkit.
    • By July 1, 2022, DHS staff will research best practices for supervising peers and report to the DHS workgroup managing the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative and the Certified Peer Specialist Advisory Committee.
    • By December 31, 2022, a workgroup of DHS staff will identify recommendations in a final report on this topic based on the research findings and feedback from the DHS workgroup managing the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative and the Certified Peer Specialist Advisory Committee.
  • Develop a visual depicting recovery coaches, peer support services, and natural supports to show how these services come together and areas of opportunity for further collaboration. 
    • By July 1, 2022, DHS staff will research existing visuals and presentations and make recommendations to the DHS workgroup managing the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative and Certified Peer Specialist Advisory Committee for next steps. 
  • Ensure the certified peer specialist exam is aligned with the updated training curriculum. 
    • By August 31, 2022, DHS staff will coordinate the review of the approved certified peer specialist training manual with Access to Independence, UW-Milwaukee, and the team working on the certified parent peer specialist to note the changes that need to made to the certified peer specialist exam.
    • By November 30, 2022, DHS staff will lead a team to work on new questions for the certified peer specialist exam and engage UW-Milwaukee to update the exam.

If you have a question or concern about the strategic framework for the Wisconsin peer specialist initiative, email the DHS Division of Care and Treatment Services.

Last Revised: June 27, 2022