The value of peer support in the context of mental health, addictions, and responding to the opioid overdose emergency cannot be overstated. Peer supports can be found in every facet of the mental health and substance use services, providing invaluable care and advocacy to a range of communities and populations. Provision of peer supports takes place in K–12 schools, correctional centres, post-secondary institutions, family services, overdose prevention sites, hospitals, and anywhere else that overlaps with the broader mental health and substance use (MHSU) sector. People with lived/living experience have been at the forefront of innovation, driving best/wise practice and effecting policy change at all levels of government.

Social, economic, and physical wellness are all deeply intertwined with mental health and substance use, and we recognize the inherent difficulty of succeeding at work or school when struggling with mental health or substance use challenges. Through the development of a peer support program that establishes a provincial network of people with lived/living experience within a variety of settings and sectors, we can be more effective at saving lives and empowering people to unite with harm reduction, treatment, and recovery strategies.

In April 2019, BCcampus received funding from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions (MMHA) to develop, implement, and evaluate a provincial peer training curriculum and standards of practice (SOP). The goal of this project is to enhance peer support program quality and uniformity across the province by delivering educational resources that are accessible, evidence-based, and consistent with the emerging trends in the field of mental health and addictions.

This is a priority action in the Pathway to Hope: A roadmap for making mental health and addictions care better for people in British Columbia. This action reflects the commitment and leadership from the MMHA to address peer support training and resource gaps.

The purpose of this project is to develop peer support training curriculum and educational resources that:

  • Are informed and evaluated by existing peer support organizations and persons with lived experience in B.C.
  • Recognize the valuable contributions that peer support workers make in supporting people in healing, harm reduction, and recovery.
  • Are available to employers and post-secondary institutions who would like to offer provincially approved training, free of charge.
  • Are informed by Indigenous Peoples so that they are culturally safe and embrace Indigenous perspectives on healing and wellness.
  • Incorporate the policy and practice principles described within the B.C. Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions Pathway to Hope Strategy.
  • Reflect the diverse needs of the population through the application of a Gender-Based Analysis Plus.

Milestones

  1. Phase 1 (April 2019 – August 2020): B.C. Provincial Standards of Practice and a Curriculum Guide produced.
  2. Phase 2 (August 2020 – January 2021): Tools and resources for peer support worker training developed and prepared for piloting.
  3. Phase 3 (January 2021 – March 2021): Evaluation and revisions of the tools and resources through a pilot with participating organizations.

Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)

The technical advisory committee is composed of people with lived/living experience, researchers, policymakers, peer agencies, and advocates. The purpose of the committee is to guide the development, implementation, and evaluation of the project deliverables.

Peer Engagement and Consultation

Peer programming should only be developed when meaningful and ethical peer engagement is made a top priority. As such, this project is to be completed in a manner that is peer-developed, peer-informed, and peer-led throughout. Peer consultation has occurred through the provision of quantitative surveys and qualitative focus groups, with over 28 peers also being employed to participate in expert working groups throughout the duration of the project. All peers engaged in this project are compensated according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control Peer Payment Standards.

Key Contacts

For information about this initiative, please contact Juanita Jara, Director Strategic Policy and Planning, Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, at Juanita.Jara@gov.bc.ca.

For all inquiries from government employees, please contact Juanita.Jara@gov.bc.ca.

For information about BCcampus and the implementation of this project, please contact Corey Ranger, Project Manager, BCcampus at cranger@bccampus.ca.

Resources