Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
August 29, 2014

Contact Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or

Peer Support and Wellness Specialists Help People with Mental Health Challenges; September is Recovery Month

Lincoln—Nebraska has 248 certified peer support and wellness specialists who help people with mental health disorders lead positive and fulfilling lives, according to the state behavioral health director.
“With the help of peer support people can find the kind of services they need for recovery,” said Scot L. Adams, director of the Division of Behavioral Health in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.  “Certified peer support and wellness specialists can also be important in helping people maintain wellness.”
The DBH Office of Consumer Affairs provides 40 hours of training and an examination to obtain certification.  Ongoing training occurs regularly.  More peer supporters are in the training pipeline.
Peer support and wellness specialists are current or former consumers of mental health or substance abuse services who have been successful in their recovery and have experience with the behavioral health system.  They may be volunteers or employees of community agencies.
“We offer guidance and assistance to people with mental health conditions by providing emotional support and understanding,” said Carol Coussons de Reyes, administrator of the Office of Consumer Affairs.  “Certified peer support and wellness specialists help individuals become advocates for recovery.”
Recovery is defined by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life and strive to reach their full potential.
Certified peer support and wellness specialists engage in positive relationships with consumers, helping them to increase self-acceptance and reduce the negative impact of a behavioral health condition. 
“With self-acceptance comes the hope for a better future,” Coussons de Reyes said.  “People feel empowered to find their own solutions in their community’s services.”
Peer supporters work with individuals to develop relationship skills, stressing the importance of social connectedness, Coussons de Reyes said.  They also help set goals that move individuals toward something positive in their lives, such as improvement in diabetes, arthritis and other aspects of total health.
“By enhancing the connection between the community and mental health consumers, using a resiliency-oriented approach, peer support and wellness specialists can provide effective prevention and intervention services, avoiding crises and relapses,” Adams said.

To find a certified peer support and wellness specialist contact the Office of Consumer Affairs at (800) 836-7660 or the local regional behavioral health authority (
September is Recovery Month.