BLOG: Peer Support helps people living in recovery

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support-group-diverseAn Ohio Peer Recovery Supporter is an individual who has self-identified as being in recovery from a mental illness or substance use disorder. Ohio Peer Recovery Supporters are also often referred to as Peer Support Specialists and/or Recovery Coaches. As Peer Supporters work with peers (or persons in recovery), self-help and mutual support occurs. Peer Supporters have the unique ability to help people in recovery and one another based on a shared affiliation and understanding of their experiences with mental illness and/or substance use disorders. They offer support, strength and provide hope to peers. This promotes personal growth, wellness and recovery.

Peer Supporters can offer social and emotional support, by listening and encouraging the peers they are working with. This helps the person in recovery to stay motivated in reaching their own personal goals. Peer Supporters help bridge the gap between client and health professionals by encouraging the peers they work with to seek out clinical and community resources when it’s appropriate. Some other additional duties of Ohio Peer Recovery Supporters include:

  • Supporting the development of life skills such as budgeting and connecting with community resources
  • Teaching skills to navigate healthcare delivery systems
  • Conducting outreach and exploring ongoing recovery needs with the person they are working with (For a full list of services that Ohio Peer Recovery Supporters are to provide, please see Ohio Administrative Code, Rule 5122-29-15 for Peer Recovery Services.)

How does a person become an Ohio Peer Recovery Supporter? On July 1, 2016, Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services (Ohio MHAS) developed a certification process for Ohio Peer Recovery Supporters across the state. They also developed the rules around what services can be delivered, hence the aforementioned, Peer Recovery Services. Peer Recovery Supporter certification requires the completion of the following requirements:

  • A sixteen-hour online, e-based academy administered by the department
  • Submission of proof of a minimum of forty hours of peer service delivery training or three equivalent years formal experience in peer service delivery
  • Passing the department peer recovery supporter exam
  • Submission of a signed, certified peer recovery supporter code of ethics established by the department
  • The submission of a completed application
  • The results of a bureau of criminal identification and investigation criminal records check conducted within thirty days prior to submission

For a more detailed list of certification requirements and ongoing certification requirements, please see Ohio Administrative Code, Rule 5122-29-15.1 or visit Ohio MHAS’s webpage on Ohio Peer Recovery Supporter Certification »

Where do Peer Supporters work? Here in Stark County, Peer Recovery Supporters are working in Permanent Supportive Housing facilities as part of Support Services teams. They are facilitating groups for Consumer Operating Service organizations. Peers have also worked at Heartland Behavioral Health and on Crisis Detox/Stabilization units providing encouragement and hope to those in the inpatient setting. Peers have worked on grant teams that assist chronically homeless individuals with mental health or substance use disorders to find housing and connect them with community resources. Peers are currently working with those clients involved in the criminal justice system to work toward employment and are also providing much needed support for those released from jail or incarceration.

How can we further expand Peer Support? I believe that we need to continue to explore the areas in which Peer Recovery Support is not being utilized in our county. I can envision Peer Supporters engaging clients who have yet to enter treatment services – coming along side of them and meeting them where they are – until the client determines his/her recovery path. I can also picture Peer Supporters working with individuals as they transition from inpatient psychiatric hospitalization or from inpatient residential treatment for substance use disorders, by assisting these individuals in navigating the behavioral health and healthcare systems and linking them to community recovery support programs and resources.

If you would like more information about Peer Recovery Support, there is a Peer Supporter Collaborative held on the fourth Thursday of every month at the Goodwill Campus » from 1 to 2 p.m. If you are unable to attend, feel free to contact Frank Aquino, StarkMHAR Program Coordinator, at or 330-430-3951 for further details.

Learn more about Peer Support » from Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services.

About Frank Aquino

Frank Aquino joined the Clinical team at StarkMHAR in July 2014 as the Program Coordinator. At StarkMHAR, Frank oversees Housing Programs and Permanent Supportive Housing Support Services programs, including Adult Care Facilities (group homes) for persons with mental illness, those of which have contracts with StarkMHAR. Frank monitors grant-funded programs such as the PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) Program, which is a street outreach program that operates in the community to find homeless individuals and connects them to mental health or other services. Frank also monitors CABHI (Cooperative Agreements to Benefit Homeless Individuals) Program), which is focused on addressing housing and service gaps to chronically homeless veterans and non-veterans. For further information about the PATH & CABHI programs visit Frank also oversees Peer Support Services in Stark County. He is a trained facilitator of the Ohio Peer Recovery Supporter Training integrated curriculum. Prior to Frank’s role in the Clinical department he was employed by Crisis Intervention & Recovery Center (CIRC). While employed with CIRC, Frank was the Supportive Services Team Leader at Hunter House and prior to that he served as a Peer Supporter Specialist for both the REACH & SHELTER grant teams. Frank is a strong advocate for individuals with mental health and substance use disorders. Most recently, Frank received a “Professional of the Year” award from NAMI Stark County. He was recognized for his dedication to persons with mental illness and substance addiction, specifically in the realm of improving housing retention. Frank has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Kent State University with major focus in Psychology.