It is estimated that there are around 1,400 certified peer support specialists (PSS) and peer wellness specialists (PWS) registered through the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). Some who work as peer support specialists, peer wellness specialists, or recovery mentors elect to not become certified, but still engage in peer delivered work. It is harder to estimate the number of people who are not certified since there is no registry to provide numbers. What we do know is that peer support is a growing discipline! This is reflected in the number of paid jobs available and increasing training opportunities.
The Oregon Health Authority categorizes peer support and wellness specialists underneath the traditional health worker (THW) umbrella. Traditional Health Workers help individuals in their communities, providing physical and behavioral healt services. The OHA provides the following definitions of the 5 traditional health worker types:
- Community health workers (CHW): Assist community members in receiving the healthcare they need.
- Peer support specialists (PSS): Provide support, encouragement and assistance to addictions and mental health consumers.
- Peer wellness specialists (PWS): Provide support, encouragement and assistance to address physical and mental health needs.
- Personal health navigators (NAV): Provide care coordination for members from within the health system.
- Birth doulas: Provide companionship and personal, nonmedical support to women and families throughout the childbirth and post-partum experience.
There are currently over 20 state-approved training programs for individuals who want to become trained as a peer support specialist, peer wellness specialist, or recovery mentor. Training programs often have a specific focus area, like youth, mental health, addictions, or family support.
The certification of peer support specialists and peer wellness specialists are processed through the Oregon Health Authority's Traditional Health Worker (THW) unit. The certification of recovery mentors is completed through the Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon (ACCBO). Both certifications require the submission of an application, proof of training, and a background check.
Peer support and peer wellness specialists who are certified through the Oregon Health Authority will be listed on the Traditional Health Worker registry. The THW registry is a reliable source and used statewide.