Proving the Value of Peer Recovery Services in Rhode Island

March 9th, 2016 | Viewpoint


Peer recovery services in substance use and mental health recovery just make sense.


Trained support service providers with their own personal lived experience can be very helpful to people navigating the challenges of recovery for the first time. But until recently, there hasn’t been a means to prove the value of these services through data here in Rhode Island.

Over the last year, JSI worked with the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH) through a SAMHSA BRSS TACS grant to develop a survey-based data collection tool on the BRSS TACS II project. Peer Recovery Specialists (PRS) would administer this tool with the individuals they work with to track demographics, behavior, and outcomes information over time.

The success of the project was largely due to an active stakeholder group made up of representatives from substance use and mental health agencies in the state.

These individuals drew from their extensive experience to provide insight on what data would be most useful and how best to formulate survey questions to not marginalize the survey group. We were also able to plan how best to integrate this program evaluation tool into the agencies’ existing PRS workflow.

Working with the stakeholder group, we developed a survey instrument that collects information on demographics, services needed, housing, employment, criminal record, social connectedness, substance use patterns, perception of care, and health status. The survey is administered with consumers when they start receiving peer specialist services, after six months, and again after 12 months – allowing the impact of the intervention to be shown over time.

To facilitate easy survey administration, we built a web-based survey collection system, using SurveyGizmo to collect survey responses and Salesforce to store the data long-term. This allows consumers to fill out the survey on a computer and for each agency to have access to live, custom reports with aggregated summary statistics. BHDDH can also monitor statewide trends.

With time, this system will generate a robust and useful dataset documenting the impact of peer recovery services on individuals in substance use and mental health recovery.

It will facilitate a more thorough understanding of the needs of consumers and inform efforts to improve the mental health and substance use systems of care here in Rhode Island. As the data reporting features are agency-specific, both agencies and BHDDH alike will be able to leverage this data in grant applications and service planning activities.

We are very excited about this initiative–a tremendous thank you to the many stakeholders who contributed their time and expertise.

Written by August Oddleifson, Molly Higgins-Biddle, and Shannon Spurlock

*This project was funded by the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals through SAMHSA’s Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy (BRSS TACS) program.

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