SB-803 Peer Support Specialist Certification and Peer Support Services, is on its way to the Governors Desk

September 01, 2020

Sacramento, CA – Tonight the California Senate voted to pass SB 803 (Beall, D- San Jose), which establishes statewide peer support training and certification standards to bill for peer support services allowing counties to draw down millions in federal funding. Right now, there are thirty-four counties currently operating peer programs outside of their Medi-Cal program that would be able to take advantage of reimbursements from federal funds. Peer support specialists are people with lived experience with mental illness and substance use disorders who help people currently experiencing those hardships.

This is the third year Senator Beall has carried this legislation with hopes that this year Governor Newsom will sign it into law. COVID-19 worsened California’s existing mental health crisis, thus making peer support services needed now more than ever.

Unlike prior years’ bills, SB 803 was carefully crafted to ameliorate the vast majority of state general fund costs, which Governor Newsom’s prior veto messages flagged as a key concern.

While on the campaign trail, Governor Newsom outlined a comprehensive strategy to tackle our mental health crisis. Newsom stated the need for a coordinated statewide response to address the disparities in our mental health system, including recognizing peer support specialists as a key step to diversify and grow our mental health workforce.

“SB 803 helps the Governor achieve one of his campaign promises during a tough economic downturn and has the added benefit of securing millions in additional federal funding for counties.” – Senator Jim Beall

Senator Beall demonstrated unwavering advocacy for mental health services throughout his time in the Legislature. He is a leader in the fight for better representation, access, and equity for mental health.

"Peer support is an evidence-based, cost-effective model of care proven to reduce cost and increase participation in treatment. Forty-Eight other states have seen the benefit and value of peer support services; now it is time for California to catch up and establish a peer support specialist certification process."  – Senator Jim Beall

In California, there is currently no statewide scope of practice, standardized curriculum, training standards, supervision standards, or certification protocol for peer support services.

Certifying peer support specialists to services in Medi-Cal is more critical now than ever, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn wreak havoc on all Californians' mental health.

Calls to suicide prevention lines from California were up 40 percent in March. Nearly 11% of American adults seriously considered suicide this June, according to CDC data. The June CDC data showed 30.9% of survey participants reported symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder, 25.3% reported a traumatic or stressor-related disorder, and 13.3% said they were using substances to cope with the pandemic's stressors. The CDC data exemplifies the need for an urgent response to the growing behavioral health crisis.

SB 803 allows California to expand the behavioral health workforce and add evidence-based peer support services in this critical time with minimal to no state General Fund contributions. This bill is supported by a broad coalition and enjoys bipartisan support in the Legislature.



Andrea Bonilla