Workforce Development for Behavioral Health

Article in The Project on Workforce by Antoinette 'Toni' Gingerelli, Kelsey Pukelis, and Priscilla Liu

This detailed study looks into the peer support workforce, highlighting the unique issues and complexities this vital part of the mental health field faces. Peer support workers balance personal experience with professional development, all while dealing with low pay and the pursuit of career growth. Despite being financially underrated, peer specialists play a key role in many people's recovery process, offering not just support, but also hope and guidance. Yet, there is an immediate need for standard certification, broader career opportunities, and increased diversity in this workforce according to the research.

Improving the career prospects of peer support workers could improve the quality of care they provide. This would then lead to better patient results, showing the inherent worth of these workers. Additionally, the emphasis on equality aims to not only enhance care but also ensure it is culturally sensitive and inclusive.

Here are our key takeaways from the article:

  • Peer support workers provide essential mentorship within the recovery process, but face challenges such as low wages and unclear career paths.
  • There is a significant demand for peer support workers, but the supply does not meet this need, influenced by recruitment practices and lack of formal career ladders.
  • Certification does not currently correlate with higher wages, indicating a disconnect between credentialing and compensation.
  • Career advancement opportunities exist in three primary categories: management, lateral movement, and clinical roles, each with unique requirements and trajectories.
  • Upskilling and continuing education can lead to personal and professional growth for peer support workers and aid organizations in employee retention.
  • Peer workforce demographics and representation need to be researched further to ensure the community being served is adequately reflected.
  • Future research and developments should focus on creating formal credentials for peer support workers, continuing education requirements, and strategies to enhance diversity and equity in the field.

Workforce Development for Behavioral Health

From The Project on Workforce by Antoinette 'Toni' Gingerelli, Kelsey Pukelis, and Priscilla Liu

"Across the United States there is a shortage of behavioral health workers. These workers play an integral role in supporting those struggling with mental health conditions or substance use disorders, a role with even more importance in the wake of COVID-19. Against this backdrop, the Massachusetts Healthcare Collaborative sought to identify and address challenges in the state's healthcare workforce pipeline, starting with peer support workers."

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