Florida Law Expands Use of Peer Specialists to Address Behavioral Health Shortage

A blue door with two small holes in it.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a bill into law that changes how Florida deals with the care of mental illness and substance abuse disorders.  The legislation notes that it is in response to the growing number of opioid addictions, as well as a shortage of behavioral health professionals and paraprofessionals.

SB 282, which becomes effective July 1, promotes the use of peer specialists to assist those in recovery from substance use disorder or mental illness. These specialists have recovered and support those with a current substance use disorder or mental illness.

The bill passed both the Florida House and Senate unanimously.

Other provisions of the law require the following:

  • The Florida Department of Children and Families to designate an entity with an existing certified recovery peer specialist training program to provide training for those seeking to become certified peer specialists and requires the managing entity to give preference to trainers who are currently certified peer specialists.
  • A competency exam and revises background screening requirements for those who want to become peer specialists.
  • Adds exemptions for certain offenses for those seeking certification and allows peer specialists to work with adults while that request for exemption is pending.
  • Increases the number of days during which a service provider can work under the supervision of a certified peer specialist while a request for an exemption from a background check disqualification is pending to 180 days from the current 90 days.
  • Those who do apply must not have been arrested for, or found guilty of certain crimes including, but not limited to sexual misconduct, Medicaid fraud, domestic violence, solicitation, drug-related crimes and more than 60 other crimes. The full text can be found here.
  • Provides that individuals certified as peer specialists by July 1, 2022, will be deemed to have met the requirements for certification under the bill, but requires these individuals to comply with minimum standards and requirements needed to maintain certification.

The Legislature found that peer specialists provide effective and cost-effective support because “they share common life experiences with those they assist†and promote a sense of community among those in recovery.†They also noted that research has shown that “peer support facilitates recovery and reduces healthcare costs.”

The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale can assist clients with complying with the law’s new mandates. You can contact us at 305-358-4500 or send us an email to info@vitalehealthlaw.com and let’s discuss how we might be able to assist you.

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The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale