Peer mentoring

Introduction to Peer Mentoring and Coaching

Learn by doing. Learn while doing. Learn together. The foundation of peer networking is people exchanging information, disseminating good practices and building leadership skills to achieve a commonly valued purpose. Peer networking is about leveraging resources for future sustainability and providing critical technical resources and guidance to achieve core results. Begin searching for a peer mentor or an evidence-based practice.

Organizations are frequently challenged to figure out how to blend the knowledge gathered from research with the knowledge learned from others and lived experience. Improvement or change is not likely to happen as a solitary activity or in an organizational "silo." Organizations that attempt change projects in isolation often fail.  

Organizations do best when there is an open sharing of ideas. Through collaborative learning and knowledge transfer, organizations can learn how others have made and sustained successful change. Peer networking stimulates the transformative power of ideas and promotes conversation that can lead to significant change.  It also helps build ownership and empowerment. The success of this approach leads to an organizational philosophy that “conversation matters” in the process of change, and that peer networking is a useful strategy for encouraging conversation.  An open dialogue among peers inspires and motivates organizations to experiment and test. Successful change occurs through the inspiration and motivation received from those who have faced similar challenges.

Historically, the Strengthening Treatment Access and Retention–State Implementation (STAR-SI) Grant, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), was an infrastructure cooperative agreement program that promoted state-level implementation of process improvement methods to improve access to and retention in outpatient treatment. STAR-SI built upon the previous innovative work of the Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment (NIATx), which began as a joint initiative of SAMHSA’s CSAT and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In October 2006, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Substance Abuse Mental Health Program Office (SAMH), in collaboration with the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association (FADAA) and six substance abuse provider agencies applied for and received a three-year STAR-SI grant from SAMHSA in order to improve client access to and retention in outpatient treatment. The project utilized a learning community approach to implement the Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment (NIATx) rapid cycle process improvement model.

Through the State and provider partnership, and working with a process improvement coach, the grant helped Florida develop a collaborative infrastructure that supports process improvement at both the state and provider level. It resulted in an established network of peer mentors. The process supports a more efficient substance abuse treatment system. The key state goals included:

  • Reduce average time between an individual's first contact for outpatient treatment and an initial screening/assessment
  • Reduce average time between initial screening/assessment and delivery of first outpatient treatment service
  • Increase the number of persons who complete detoxification and then enter outpatient treatment

What Do Peer Mentors and Coaches Do?

Peer Mentors and Coaches play an essential role in Florida's system for performance improvement by:

  • Using their experience and expertise to provide technical assistance to provider agencies and the state in implementing process improvements
  • Identify promising process improvement tools, strategies and changes to be disseminated across the state
  • Supporting and helping to sustain Florida's peer mentor network and learning collaborative

Peer mentors and Coaches work closely with change leaders and teams from other behavioral health treatment and prevention provider agencies to implement process improvements by sharing their own stories, as well as helping to guide them through activities such as:

  • Identifying innovative practices to spread
  • Assisting the agency in the development of practices to sustain and maintain improvements gained through their process improvements.
  • Providing technical assistance— either face-to-face or through phone consultations with change leaders, executive sponsors, and change teams
  • Assisting in the diffusion of evidence-based process improvement practices throughout the state
  • Identifying needs for training and technical assistance throughout the state
  • Identifying opportunities to spread and sustain successful practice

What Qualifications Do I Need To Become A Peer Mentor or Coach?

In order to become a peer mentor, you must:

  • Complete the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) 101 Training
  • Have experience delivering an evidence based practice
  • Desired experience with Medicaid
  • Demonstrate the ability to collect, analyze, and use data in decision making
  • Set up Change Teams
  • Be a Change Team Leader for a process improvement project for at least one year

In order to become a coach, you must:

  • Complete NIATx coach training and have advanced certifications in specific evidence based practices
  • Have advanced training/certification in specific evidence based practices (treatment or prevention)
  • Be an experienced Peer Mentor
  • Train and assist new peer mentors in implementing process improvement and evidence based practices initiatives
  • Coach agencies

Peer Mentor Program is Seeking Professionals that Have Experience and Knowledge with Evidence-Based Practices and Medicaid

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) Substance Abuse & Mental Health Program Office is (SAMH) is working to further develop the network of Peer Mentors who have experience and knowledge of evidence based practices.  As more providers are billing Medicaid and providing services to Medicaid eligible individuals, there is a growing need for assistance and peer mentoring to providers who are new to the Medicaid process.

Persons from all areas of the behavioral health treatment and prevention delivery system are encouraged to participate.

Do You Want to Become a Peer Mentor?

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The DCF SAMH has contracted with FADAA to coordinate this effort. If you are interested in becoming a peer mentor or if you have any questions, please contact Cynthia Berg, Director of Research & Practical Improvement, at (850) 878-2196 or email