Alexandria, VA – Mental Health America (MHA) applauds Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s announcement that it will cover access to peer support specialists starting in 2024 for members enrolled in fully insured commercial plans. MHA has long advocated for states and communities to incorporate peer support into community-based mental health and substance use treatment services and calls on other commercial plans to follow suit.
Peer support services have a long history of impact in public and community mental health, and is an essential, empathetic, and empowering element to recovery from mental health and substance abuse conditions. These programs provide an opportunity for individuals to use their lived experience of mental health and substance use conditions, along with skills learned through formal training and certification, to support others on their recovery journeys.
"We are excited to see Blue Cross Blue Shield take this step forward in providing access to peer support here in Minnesota," said Shannah Mulvihill, executive director of Mental Health Minnesota, a statewide affiliate of Mental Health America. "As a provider of peer support services, we know that peer support can play a critical role in mental health wellness and recovery, so expanding access will have a positive impact for people across our state."
States and the Veteran’s Administration have paid for peer specialist services for decades. However, individuals covered by commercial insurance plans do not have access to the often life-changing resource. Evidence has shown that peer services improve recovery outcomes, including reducing depression, substance use, and hospitalizations while increasing community connectedness and well-being.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s announcement relies on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) recently released National Model Standards for Peer Support Certification, of which Kelly Davis, MHA’s vice president of peer and youth advocacy, contributed as part of SAMHSA’s Technical Expert Panel on Peer Support Certification.
"This is an important and exciting step in advancing peer support services for the countless adults in need,” Davis said. “In the midst of a youth mental health crisis we are glad to see investment in supports for family members and encourage insurers to also invest in certified youth peer specialist services to meet the needs of young people.”
The SAMHSA standards came from a March 2022 directive from the Biden Administration's strategy to address the nation's mental health crisis.
About Mental Health America
Mental Health America is the nation’s leading community-driven nonprofit dedicated to promoting mental health and well-being, resilience, recovery, and closing the mental health equity gap. Mental Health America’s work is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of whole person health, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; and integrated care, services, and supports for those who need them. Learn more at MHAnational.org.