Washington’s Peer Support Services team ramping up efforts to train peer counselors


Shane Ersland


Behavioral health officials from the Washington State Health Care Authority’s (HCA) Peer Support Program (PSP) are ramping up efforts to train future certified peer counselors.


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PSP Recovery Support Services Supervisor Maureen Bailey discussed upcoming training opportunities during a webinar Thursday. She said more than 1,400 people are on the PSP’s wait list to receive certified peer counselor training, although that number could be inflated because some people have been on it for years and might no longer be interested.

“We have a lot of trainings coming up this year,” Bailey said. “We have a huge wait list of people who want to be certified peer counselors. Some of the folks have been on the wait list for quite some time.”

Availability of resources and staff limits the number of training opportunities, and the PSP is looking to hire more trainers. But more than 735 people will be able to acquire training this year, Bailey said. Applicants who have job offers to work at agencies to provide Medicaid-reimbursable peer services will be prioritized for training opportunities, she said.

Training sessions are currently being held virtually, but in-person sessions could start soon. Virtual sessions will remain available after in-person sessions begin, however. The PSP will host 60 trainings this year, Bailey said.

The PSP received $881,000 through the state’s 2021 and 2022 supplemental budgets to increase its recruitment of BIPOC peers, Bailey said.

“We’re training peers who reflect the communities they serve,” Bailey said.

Funding will also support the training of peers to be trainers and listening sessions to identify barriers to peer services in marginalized communities.

The legislature also provided $250,000 to create a crisis response training program for behavioral health specialists, Bailey said. The program’s first pilot training session ended last week, and HCA will finalize its curriculum and hold a statewide crisis training program this fall. 

PSP officials are also working to create an emotional support network for employed behavioral health specialists.

“The peer specialist support network will be a place folks can go virtually to check in with other peer support specialists and support each other,” Bailey said.

Those interested in training sessions will have a new tool to reference with a new Peer to Peer newsletter, which will be distributed beginning in October. It will include updated information on the training wait list and upcoming training sessions, PSP Administrator Amanda Polley said. 

“We’ll have a specific area for job listings,” Polley said. “We might have a little pet gossip section just for the fun of it.”

Those interested in the newsletter can send an email to [email protected]. Those interested in continuing education opportunities can visit the PSP webpage.