In the last ten years, peer recovery support services (PRSS) – distinct from both clinical treatment and mutual aid supports – have become established in the continuum of care for people seeking, stabilizing, and sustaining recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As these services have been conceived, defined, and developed, organizations have realized that they need to address the most effective ways to ensure the highest quality of care, while keeping intact the values, principles, and contexts that were the underpinnings of their work and that would give integrity and fidelity to peer recovery practice.
PRSS accreditation has emerged in this context. Accreditation is an evaluation and approval process for organizations or programs to deliver a specific type of services or set of services. The focus is on the organization/program providing the service(s). Accreditation is sponsored by a non-governmental agency, in which trained external peer and expert reviewers evaluate an organization’s compliance with preestablished performance standards. Although it is usually voluntary, it can be a requirement set by many diverse funders and purchasers of services.
The Council on Accreditation of Peer Recovery Support Services (CAPRSS) accredits programs, rather than credentialling individual practitioners. This orientation is based on the wider purpose of supporting the development of recovery-oriented, community-based institutions and programs where peer services are delivered, and on a commitment to quality assurance and integrity of those services.
There are several reasons why CAPRSS focuses on accreditation of programs rather than certifying, credentialing, or licensing an individual for a specific service role. An accreditation system allows organizations to:
- oversee an expanding menu of peer support services and activities, as many already do today, providing a broader array of support to meet the needs of people seeking or in recovery
- train, supervise, and support volunteers who may or may not be interested in finding a career ladder in the continuum of addiction care, or who may have barriers to employment, certification or credentialing
- be accountable for quality and ethical peer practice in a number of service settings – both on and offsite, actively support peer workers, and protect the recovery community and peer values inherent in the services
A national accreditation system provides a comprehensive response to a range of peer issues, rather than piecemeal approaches that differ widely from state to state. The accreditation of programs that deliver PRSS will:
- create infrastructure necessary for peer service delivery, including standards-driven continuous quality improvement;
- facilitate and disseminate best – and, ultimately, evidence-based – practices; and
- reinforce the recovery-based values and principles that underly peer services and make them valuable in the continuum of care.