Dear Secretary Sudders, Commissioner Mikula, and Deputy Commissioner Doyle,
We are writing as representatives of the Peer Specialist community across the state to ask you to help us protect the integrity of our positions and make them sustainable.
Peer Specialist positions are challenging to fill. There is a limited pool of people who meet the qualifications of having a psychiatric history, wanting to be open and in a job where they have to talk about that history on a regular basis, and actually being good at the work of supporting others in the way that Peer Specialists are called upon to do. Meanwhile, there is also a high turnover rate among those that do get hired.
There are many reasons for the high turnover rate. The pay is also low, making entering this line of work less appealing to many people, and encouraging others to move on as soon as possible. Additionally, the pay typically fails to meet the threshold for what it would take for individuals who’ve been receiving benefits (SSDI, housing subsidies, etc.) to feel secure in taking the leap back to work. All of this is even further complicated by the significant disparity in Peer Specialist pay between those working for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) and those working for providers in the service system.
However, pay aside, one primary reason is that providers consistently lack understanding of peer roles, and regularly ask people working in those roles to engage in tasks that violate their Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) Code of Ethics. This leaves Peer Specialists who are already often isolated from others working in the same position feeling as if they are alone, and as if their profession and they themselves are being devalued.
When DMH released the Adult Clinical Community Services (ACCS) Request for Response (RFR), it was such a wonderful surprise to see that DMH was – for the first time – taking a clear stand on some core protections for the peer role. This included:
· A clear statement that Peer Specialists should never be involved in medication administration
· A clear statement that Peer Specialists should never be involved in rep-payeeships
· A clear statement that Peer Specialist documentation expectations should be based on standards set by the Certified Peer Specialist training
This was all extremely helpful. Yet, providers have continued to require Peer Specialists to act in ways that are highly problematic, and even sometimes in direct conflict with the terms set forth in the ACCS RFR. In fact, we’ve heard that providers have begun taking corrective action against and even gone so far as to terminate Peer Specialists who are refusing to violate their Code of Ethics by doing things that even the ACCS RFR prohibits.
This is a comparatively new profession, and we need the support of DMH and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to move things forward. Ultimately, we are asking that DMH release a statement clearly indicating that it is unacceptable for providers to take corrective action against Peer Specialists working under the ACCS contract for refusing to do things that violate their Code of Ethics and the terms of the ACCS RFR.
We realize that DMH has historically taken a fairly hands off approach with most of these issues, but this intervention is needed to protect these roles and give the Peer Specialist community in Massachusetts the tools we need to be successful. We appreciate any support you are able to offer. You can reach us atPeerSpecialistsUnitedAcrossMA@gmail.com with any questions or concerns. We look forward to hearing back from you.
Eastern Mass Peer Network
Western Mass Peer Network