What is a Reentry Peer Specialist?
“Reentry”- transition from incarceration to life in the community
“Peer” – individuals that share similar lived experiences
“Specialist” – individual highly skilled in a specific field
“Reentry Peer Specialists” – people with shared lived experience of incarceration and mental health and/or substance use challenges who have been trained to work in a variety of settings to provide support to other people with criminal justice involvement who are seeking to find or maintain their own personal healing, recovery, and sense of community.
Why is this needed?
This training provides opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals with a history of mental health challenges and/or substance use challenges to develop life skills that address both the issues of recidivism and barriers to reentry through a recovery-oriented, peer-led strategy. The training also provides workforce training and credentials that make them more employable. This training and certification is needed because:
- It is an innovative approach to Reentry Peer Support.
- Texas does not currently have a reentry training and certification.
- There are only four other states in the nation that have Reentry Peer Specialists. None of them have a training model or delivery format similar to Via Hope’s.
- Organizations have expressed an interest in this training.
- It further defines and supports the concept of peer work.
- It complements and provides a “value added” to all of the existing reentry services.
- By having individuals face and resolve their past traumas it will reduce recidivism.
Will a certification be earned?
Yes, individuals complete a knowledge assessment following the training and if they pass can apply for certification issued by the Texas Certification Board. The certification is for two years and individuals must earn 20 hours of continuing education to be eligible for recertification.
How Is It Different from the Mental Health Peer Specialist and Peer Recovery Support Peer Specialist Certifications that already exist in Texas?
- This is designed specifically, for formerly incarcerated individuals.
- The curriculum addresses three specific Traumas:
- Before incarceration
- During incarceration
- After incarceration
- It provides an introduction to healing from these traumas.
- It is also designed to address the concept of Freedom vs. Release.
Is there training for the organizations where RPSs will work?
Yes, Via Hope is developing a “Demystifying the Reentry Workforce” training for reentry programs, wardens, divert courts, corrections officers, parole officers, community based organizations, sheriff departments, and other organizations that may employ formerly incarcerated individuals.
How is it different from Via Hope’s Community Reentry Endorsement Training?
Our current two-day endorsement (continuing education) training was created in response to Texas House Bill (1), Article II, Department of Health and Services Rider 73 which required DSHS to implement a mental health peer support reentry program. There was a curriculum and pilot program created to partner with Local Mental Health Authorities and county jails to have Certified Peer Specialist go into the jails to provide peer support and build relationships. Via Hope still offers this training for individuals that have already been trained as Mental Health Peer Specialists and want to work in this area.
In contrast, the Reentry Peer Specialist training and certification was conceptualized and developed for – and will be trained by – individuals that have been formerly incarcerated. Research, lived experience, and evidence based practices were the catalyst for creating this curriculum. This eight-day training was designed on the principles of peer support from a Thrauma® (a series of three specific traumas culminating in one event) perspective, in this case incarceration. The concepts of release vs. freedom, and what it means to be in recovery are also specifically addressed. The training will prepare individuals that have lived experience with incarceration to assist others through the process of discovery and healing. Participants will be required to pass an exam and will receive a credential as a Certified Reentry Peer Specialist.
This curriculum was developed and co-written by Dr. Sandra D. Smith (who herself was formerly incarcerated), Darcy Kues, JD, and Maureen Nichols of Shanti Consulting.
Development of the Reentry Peer Specialist Training was provided by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.