Getting “Peer Support Specialist” Recognized by the US Dept. of Labor

Getting “Peer Support Specialist” Recognized by the US Dept. of Labor
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Peer Support and the US 2020 Census

The United States 2020 Census is here! Why is that important to peer support specialists? Believe it or not, the census governs a lot of what happens in our lives—one example is the building of bridges. It could affect the growth of peer support also!

The International Association of Peer Supporters embarked on a long-range plan to have Peer Support Specialists considered to be a Standard Occupational Classification with the Department of Labor.

Until this time, peer support has not been a distinct classification. Our Workforce Development Committee began work on this in 2018 by developing a definition that demonstrated the unique way in which peer support specialists work. That definition has been commented on in surveys, caucuses and focus groups.

Two very large differences with peer support is that it uses personal experiences to encourage individuals to pursue recovery, have hope and empowerment in their lives and the goal for peer support is ‘recovery’, not addressing diagnostic criteria.

It employs a “strengths-based” approach that instead of addressing a problem, asks people to recognize and use their strengths to pursue their hopes and dreams. These are major differences from any other behavioral health profession.

The 2018 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system is a federal statistical standard used by federal agencies to classify workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data.

All workers are classified into one of 867 detailed occupations according to their occupational definition. To facilitate classification, detailed occupations are combined to form 459 broad occupations, 98 minor groups, and 23 major groups.

Detailed occupations in the SOC with similar job duties, and in some cases skills, education, and/or training, are grouped together.

Some occupations are easy to classify. For instance, there is a small, select group of astronauts. Differentiating between behavioral health professions that have some things in common is more difficult which is why this workforce development group has already labored on this topic.

We must make the case or prove our belief that peer support is a very distinct profession.
We currently believe in educated estimates, that there are about 25,000-27,000 peer support specialists in the United States. 25,000 individuals appear to be the number that is considered significant enough to be a qualified profession under the Department of Labor.

The next changes for Standard Occupational Classifications will be announced around 2028 yet it is important for this to be addressed much earlier.

After talking to some experts in Washington DC this summer, I was encouraged to ask our members and anyone that is a peer support specialist, recovery coach, peer counselor or any title that is equal to the peer support specialist, to make sure when they filled out their census survey either by paper, online or on the phone to state their profession as peer support specialist.

That would include any supervisor who has the peer support certification.
If we have enough ‘thousands’ of peer support specialists complete the US 2020 Census with peer support specialist as their stated profession, it will trigger the Department of Labor to give attention to this new profession and when we pursue this, it will have more impact.

Please complete your US Census survey! Please list your profession as peer support specialist! Some of the benefits are listed in the fourth paragraph in that data is collected by the Bureau of Statistics once a classification is recognized and that data on numbers, salary etc. is valuable to the profession.

Also, we peer support specialists are already proud of what we do and the tremendous outcomes that we have witnessed in ourselves and others. Being recognized as a Department of Labor Standard Occupational Classification would give us an ‘official’ status.

iNAPS and its many partners looks forward to that day. Please help us get the attention of the US Department of Labor!

Pullout: ‘Please list your profession [in the US 2020 Census] as peer support specialist!’

by Mike Weaver

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