Peer support certification helps those afflicted by addiction
Since the summer of 2017, Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Continuing Education department has offered the Certified Recovery Specialist program, a PA Certification Board approved training. CRS is a relatively new position in the recovery field, and agencies who employ counselors are regularly adding CRS openings due to the overwhelming need of services caused by the opioid crisis. Both the PA Certification Board, which posts CRS openings on their website, and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation in Wilkes-Barre have significantly utilized our services, sending numerous students to our program because students who complete the course and pass the exam have jobs waiting for them. Hospitals are adding CRS positions, especially in Emergency departments where they provide CRS services as a “warm handoff” from their emergency room staff. This peer support position is critical in that it provides a mentor to a patient while at the hospital and throughout their recovery. It is not unusual for CRS mentors to accompany patients on outpatient visits.
Certified Recovery Specialist is a peer support certification. The candidate must attend 54 hours of training on specified domains: Recovery Management, Education and Advocacy, Professional Ethics & Responsibility, Relevant to Field of Addictions, and Confidentiality. They must demonstrate a lived experience, with a minimum of 18 months of recovery, and sign an ethical code of conduct in order to apply to take the certification exam. The training is provided by Karen Laboranti, Penn State Wilkes-Barre adjunct, and Melisa Naylor, Penn State Wilkes-Barre Rehabilitation and Human Services faculty. The instructors work diligently to provide not only training to pass the exam but to prepare the student for the real world of peer support assistance. Under the guidance of these instructors, 99% of our students have passed the certification exam, with 63 program participants to date.
Students who have completed the program are encouraged to touch base with Penn State Wilkes-Barre Continuing Education to share their results on the exam and the positions for which they have been hired. One past student who was recently hired by Pyramid Healthcare in Dallas, reported that he was chosen for an interview because he obtained his CRS training through Penn State Wilkes-Barre.
CRS cohorts often form close-knit relationships amongst themselves and share contact information with each other in order to build their network of resources. This spring for the first time, four members of the cohort attended classes at a distance (using Zoom and Polycom videoconferencing technology) from the Penn State Wilkes-Barre Northern Tier Center; in spite of this, a strong sense of comraderie formed between the Towanda attendees and those in the classroom at the campus in Lehman.
Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Continuing Education department is looking forward to the continued success of this program as a wonderful way to give back to the community as professionals in this field care for people afflicted by addiction.