September 15, 2017

Luján Amendment Providing $2 Million for Peer Support Programs Included in 2018 Federal Spending Bill Approved by House

[WASHINGTON, DC] – An amendment authored by Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) providing funding for Peer Support programs was approved today for inclusion in the 2018 federal spending bill.

The amendment provides $2 million in dedicated funding for Peer Support Paraprofessionals as part of the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program (B-HWET). The BHWET Program helps create greater access to behavioral health services by establishing partnerships with community organizations. Peer support specialists are individuals who have been through mental health treatment themselves, and undergo extensive training to be able to support others through their treatment.

The purpose of the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program, which this amendment funds, is to add additional trained behavioral health workers to serve populations especially in rural and medically underserved areas.

Peer support has improved health outcomes while lowering healthcare costs. Luján noted that there is growing evidence that peer support-related strategies have been found to result in more successful solutions than current hospital and emergency care related options. Peer support programs provide individualized, managed care to those who need it the most.

Studies have also shown the potential cost-savings that the increased implementation of peer support can deliver. A 2006 study demonstrated that, for patients using day treatment, the use of Certified Peer Specialists led to a $5,497 cost reduction per person per year. Another successful program based out of Denver showed a return on investment of $2.28 for every $1 spent. As evidenced by these and other studies, a small investment in peer support services will greatly reduce health care costs in the long run.

Speaking from the floor of the House, Rep. Luján said:

“The current system for treating behavioral health issues is not sufficient to those who need help. It is unacceptable that more than 50 percent of primary care patients with depression go undiagnosed and two-thirds of primary care providers have no ability to prescribe outpatient behavioral health for their patients. Additionally, dedicated funding for peer support paraprofessionals will be essential in helping address the current lack of access to behavioral health services in our health care system.”

Watch video of Rep. Luján’s remarks.