The value of peer support has been widely recognized in improving the health of patients living with chronic diseases and behavioral health conditions.
BPHC has provided funding to support a collaboration between BronxWorks and Health People to launch an “HIV Peer Training” program. This initiative provides community members living with HIV with new job skills and paid experience while connecting people with HIV to peer support that can drive adherence to their care plan.
Tapping into their personal experience and training, peers use their skills to reach out and connect with clients whether it’s providing information, helping to follow through on appointments, advocating on their behalf, or being a source of support.
Training for Peer Certification is a 12-month program that includes 90 hours of coursework through the NYS Department of Health’s AIDS Institute followed by 500 hours of internship. Following the training and internship, peers must take the NYS Peer Worker Certification knowledge test to be certified.
Health People began recruiting peer educators in February 2018 and manages the training program. BronxWorks identified organizations with HIV-positive clients that can host peers as interns. Peers receive a stipend for their internship. BronxWorks provides supervisory support to the agencies hosting the peers and helps peers in their resume development, job search and interview preparation.
To date, 18 peer interns have been placed at six organizations in roles that include outreach, education, individual and group support, and advocacy. The agencies are: Acacia-Casita Maria, Bright Point-THRIVE, BrightPoint-Wellness, Comunilife, Health People, and Woody Crest Health Center.
“Peer Educators are uniquely qualified to meet clients where they are and give them the support, encouragement and links to needed resources,” says Kendra Oke, Health People Program Coordinator.
The success of HIV peer-led models has demonstrated the potential to be funded by Managed Care Organizations. For example, in 2014, Illinois began to allow reimbursement for preventive services delivered by non-licensed providers including community health workers and peer educators, upon recommendation from a licensed Medicaid provider.
For more information about the HIV Peer Training program, contact Shqipe Gjevukaj.