HELENA — Governor Greg Gianforte recently hosted a ceremonial bill signing of House Bill 276, which adds Peer Support Specialists to the Montana Board of Behavioral Health. Peer Support Specialists are those who have suffered from addiction or behavioral health disorders, recovered, and now use their life experience to mentor others.
The career came a long way over the past decade to become recognized by the state.
"People with lived experiences, to know that our story is going to save a life one day is beyond honorable," says Savanah Webb, a Certified Peer Coach.
The Certified Professional Action and Advocacy Committee was one of the front runners of House Bill 276. It is their mission to address aspects to the Peer Support profession in Montana. One of their wishes came true as Governor Gianforte signed the bill into law.
The committee says having a voice on the Board of Behavioral Health will provide a unique perspective.
“We could perhaps do [something] with the Criminal Justice side, Department of Justice, you know, 'Forensic Peer Support.' The sky's the limit when it comes to peer support and this opportunity only helps us grow as a profession so we have that solid foundation and we can meet the needs of the community and of Peer Support Specialists and what they need," says Erica Durham, a Peer Support Specialist and committee member.
In 2012, the Addictive and Mental Disorder Division within the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services and recovery organization, Montana’s Peer Network, collaborated to form a task force with the aim to enhance the professional field of peer support. In 2017, the collaboration achieved its goals.
To become licensed with the state, a Peer Support Specialist must complete a 40-hour course, take a written exam, and be in stable recovery for at least two years.