Recently 20 Veterans graduated from a workshop to train them as Certified Peer Specialists (CPSs). The training allows Veterans with severe mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders to work as CPSs, a new para-professional position licensed in Pennsylvania.
CPSs can help other Veterans with skill-building, recovery, and life goal-setting issues, basic problem solving, and use of self-help recovery tools. CPSs can work in behavioral health agencies across the state and garner $25-30K per year, depending on education and experience. They must be trained by one of two vendors in Pennsylvania, The Institute for Recovery and Community Integration or Recovery Innovations of PA. CVAMC officials chose the former.
From over 150 contacts, 60 applicants were interviewed for the training. A committee made up of eight CVAMC staff (including two Veterans hired as peer support technicians) selected the final 20 for the class (with two alternates). The entire program was overseen by Audrey Hall, local mental health recovery coordinator and coordinator for Peer Support Services.
“On behalf of the first class of CPSs, we extend our love and thanks to all who are responsible for this important opportunity,” said Carlos Edwards, student.
Each graduate had to complete 75 hours of instruction, pass a written exam and demonstrate performance benchmarks. The participants received certification recognized through the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) and the Department of Welfare (DPW). Graduation took place on August 27.
Sheldon Hannibal, graduate, said, “I would like to thank Audrey hall, Sue Wieser, and everyone behind the scenes for supporting vets in this training.”
“Receiving certification has increased my desire and afforded an enhancement to my ability to give back the support I needed and received,” stated Michael Griffin.
After the training, a mini career fair was held where Veterans were ready to submit resumes and discussed part-time and full-time work as well as volunteer opportunities with community providers. CVAMC providers and Grant and Per Diem programs that were seeking applicants within their programs were also present.
“Becoming a peer specialist is a very rewarding and special way of giving back,” said Warren Chism, graduate.
Additionally, graduates are working with the local mental health recovery coordinator (Ms. Hall), and the supervisor of Vocational Rehabilitation (Ms. Wieser) to assign CPS graduates to supported employment staff. Supported employment staff will assist graduates in finding part- or full-time work, using their new CPS skill sets, along with their training to be Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitators.
WRAP facilitator scholarships were available to 15 of the Veterans (with two additional alternates) who completed the CPS training. Twelve veterans graduated as WRAP facilitators on September 17.
Mike Nelson, trainer, gave kudos to the WRAP class, “This training group was a pleasure. The Veterans were very eager to learn the material. Their knowledge and experience made them great facilitators.”
“Now as I see an opportunity to provide support to other veterans, I am accepting a work challenge so that I might…help others see that recovery is obtainable in their lifetime and the WRAP can be used to understand that fact,” added David Babb, veteran.
Veteran Robert Petro would like to thank the Coatesville VA Medical Center for the opportunity to receive this training; “It was a great experience.”
Fay Grover said, “To all involved thank you for the opportunity to enhance myself, a door has been opened that will enable me to use the chaos and turmoil in my past for the better(ment) of others and self in the future.”
Ginger Johnston added, “I want to thank Audrey Hall and Sue Wieser for this opportunity. I finally feel like I’m able to become the person I was meant to be.”
Finally, as Robert Stukes, WRAP graduate put it, “I’m very grateful for the training and hope I can pass it on in my wellness. The instructors were very understanding and informative.”
CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR GRADUATES
Graduate Veteran Certified Peer Specialists
Graduate Veteran WRAP Facilitators