Reentry Training and Certification

Reentry Peer Specialist Certification

The United States overwhelmingly incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. According to the Bureau of Justice and Statistics (2019) there are over 2.3 million people incarcerated in the US, another 4.5 million being supervised in the community by a parole or probation agency, and 1 in 38 adults are under some form of correctional oversight.1

Via Hope envisions a world where quality peer support exists wherever people are experiencing and recovering from trauma, mental health challenges and addiction. Therefore, we are working to bring peer support to people who are incarcerated or reentering the community after incarceration.

While the majority of individuals that have justice system involvement have some type of mental health challenge, substance use challenge, or both, it is often the shared experience of the trauma associated with incarceration that provides the strongest peer bond.  Via Hope developed the training and credential for “Reentry Peer Specialists,” which we implemented first in Texas, and are now offering nationwide.  This is NOT supplemental training for people who have already been trained as mental health or substance use peer specialists.  It is a separate, stand-alone training and certification program.

“Peer Support” is a universal concept – people with similar experiences helping each other from a place of shared understanding.  However, all peers are not interchangeable.  Identifying the common lived experience is critical to making peer support effective.

For the past decade, Via Hope has been the leader in Texas in providing training and education opportunities for peer specialists and family partners working in the mental health system, and in working with provider organizations to help them effectively implement peer services into a recovery-oriented practice environment.

Reentry Peer Specialist Training and Certification

Via Hope is providing an eight-day eLearning platform peer training and certification specifically for formerly incarcerated individuals. This training is designed to directly address the significant barriers to becoming a whole person; this includes employment and other reentry barriers that many people face after release from incarceration. The emphasis on the trauma individuals experience before, during, and after incarceration is a significant distinction from other training models. There is also an emphasis on the Freedom vs. Release perspective. The Reentry Peer Specialist credential will also offer formerly incarcerated individuals an opportunity to further their own recovery while providing support and hope to other people who may be trying to find their own way through reentry and recovery. The credential is issued by the Texas Certification Board

The core learning objectives of this training will engage participant’s self-exploration relative to: (1) Recovery from a Reentry Perspective, (2) Trauma – 3 types, (3) Recidivism Intervention, (4) What it Means to be a Peer Specialist, and (5) Maintaining a Whole Person Perspective. Upon completion of this training participants must complete and pass a knowledge assessment in order to apply for certification.

This curriculum was developed and co-written by Dr. Sandra D. Smith (who herself was formerly incarcerated), Darcy Kues, JD, and Maureen Nichols. Development funding of the Reentry Peer Specialist training was provided by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.

1Bureau of Justice and Statistics (2019). Retrieved on 4/3/19 from

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