History of the Academy

Graphic Facilitation by Image Think

In 2009, NYS Office of Mental Health received a Transformation grant to create recovery centers that would provide peer support and other services. The New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) and Rutgers University (formerly UMDNJ) were chosen as partners under the Transformation Grant to create and deliver training for recovery center administration and staff.

Although there had been pockets of peer specialist training in different areas of the state, prior to 2015, there was no standardized, statewide training or certification of peer specialists. The training programs that existed varied widely. Some were comprehensive 6-month job training programs that prepared people for a range of employment opportunities. Others were less extensive and specific to peer advocacy or other tasks.

The Academy of Peer Services project began as an opportunity to create a simplified and unified approach to the training of peer specialists. The primary goals were to:

  • Promote increased skill level
  • Improve the overall quality of peer support services in NY State
  • Utilize technology for access and sustainability
  • Ensure rigor of training

Need Assessment: Rutgers conducted a needs assessment based on the importance, frequency, criticality of tasks associated with peer support  The needs assessments helped to identify the core competencies for peer support providers based on how important, frequently used, and critical tasks were.

A total of 47 key informants from 19 peer-run organizations and peer-run programs participated in in-depth interviews implemented between October 25 and November 10, 2011. Of the 19 agencies, 15 were peer-run agencies (with more than 50% of staff and board members who are peers) and four were peer-run programs of non peer-run agencies. Three organizations were operating Recovery Centers (RCs) and nine others were developing RCs. The size of the organizations varied significantly ranging from 3 to almost 90 full-time employees. All regions of the state participated.

On December 17 & 18, 2012, NYS OMH held a statewide forum in Albany about the development of the Academy of Peer Services  that was attended by peer support staff, managers and administrators of peer-run organizations and peer-run programs. The purpose of the forum was to identify general core competencies of peer support services as well as core skills for specific peer service models.

Participants broke out into working groups which were assigned to identify core competencies of specific topics. The process was facilitated by Amy Colesante, Executive Director of the Mental Health Empowerment Project and Cheryl MacNeil, PhD of The Sage Colleges.

Illustrations of the Graphic Facilitation by ImageThink from the statewide forum: