Thursday, Reps. Judy Chu (CA-27) and Adrian Smith (NE-03) introduced the PEERS in Medicare (PEERS) Act to expand access to peer support specialists by clarifying that they can participate as part of a team that provides behavioral health integration (BHI) services for Medicare beneficiaries.
A peer support specialist is a person with “lived experience” who has been trained to support those who struggle with mental health, psychological trauma, or substance use. Their personal experience of these challenges provide peer support specialists with expertise to help patients along their road to recovery as a supplemental partner in a larger care team. Reps. Chu and Smith issued the following statements:
“As one of the only psychologists in Congress, I know that mental health and support is essential to our overall health, especially after the last year,” said Rep. Chu. “In addition to the ongoing opioid epidemic, the pandemic, recession, and rising hate crimes have all contributed to families, teachers, front line workers, and children reporting increased anxiety, depression, and trauma, all of which can be helped with access to Peer support specialists. Peer support specialists do not take the place of mental health practitioners like a physician, psychologist or social worker. Instead, they supplement these professionals as part of the care team to help someone struggling with substance abuse or mental health disorders on the road to recovery. That is why I am leading this bill once again, because I want to help bolster the recovery care workforce in our country. “
“Mental health services are critically important in rural America, and COVID-19 has made the need for mental health care even more prevalent,” said Rep. Smith. “Peer support therapy provides an opportunity for those with mental illnesses or who are recovering from substance abuse disorders to find support and assistance during their recovery. I am glad to sponsor this legislation once again and continue working on bettering mental health in our country.”