PEERS Perspectives is a blog series that offers thoughts and reflections from our staff and community members on mental health, current events, and the ways they affect our lives.

Today’s post on Bill SB803 is written by Communications Coordinator Joshua Walters

California is not always part of the national conversation on peer support specialists because we do not have our own certification. 

But right now, PEER Advocates around the state are attempting to mobilize to get the Bill SB803 passed in a couple of months. If Governor Newsom signs the bill it will mean that California will have an official certification program in place to get peer to peer mental health supporters officially working on behalf of the state. 

Senator Jim Beall stated, “We are in for a rough ride with about 400 bills that need to get passed”. 

Right now the Billing Code for Medical does not line up with the state guidelines, and organizations that employ peers are not able to bill for peer services. 

“The conundrum is we cannot bill for what peers do as peers, what we have been doing is enrolling the services”, says Keris Jän Myrick. 

There are already inadequate services for mental health and COVID has worsened our mental health crisis. This grassroots push is to convince Governor Gavin Newsom to sign the bill. When he ran for office was in support of peer support services, but recently it’s been hard to get his support. Mental Health advocates hope that everyone can push together and make it happen. 

Some of the negotiations being made behind the scenes are that the Department of Healthcare is engaging the advocacy groups with feedback and asking questions. However, working with the department has barriers; like cost. The department is clear that they are not going to pay for the program, as it is now. 

Some amendments to the bill, to get it through include changes to statewide standards, the certification itself and involving key stakeholders (those who have lived experience) to have a say in the training. 

If we are not able to get the department to pay for the cost, the counties pick up the bill and seek a waiver, where the feds pick up the rest of the cost of the program eventually.

Right now peers can be certified in one county and the goal is to have that certification count in other counties as well. 

Currently, there is a 4 week Media Strategy happening to get the word out about SB803 and how to instate grassroots pressure. 

4 Week Media Strategy:

Week 1 Letter Writing, add your organization to the official letter and press release.

Week 2  Create a brief video (30 sec.) to post to twitter, hashtag #SB803 #peerssavelives

Week 3   Explain why this is needed now. 

Week 4, Best of the Best, recycle the best posts from previous weeks.