Increasingly, states recognize the value of peer supports for promoting recovery among people with substance use disorders (SUDs). Peers — who may be known by other titles across states — leverage their lived experiences of addiction and recovery to support others on the path to recovery.  There is growing evidence that shows peer support services address the needs of people with SUD and help improve outcomes, including reductions in emergency department (ED) visits for certain patients (those with a history of SUD-related ED visits).

Evidence-based SUD services, including peer supports, are critical to populations disproportionately affected by SUD. For example, Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native people face higher rates of SUD-related mortality when compared to white people. Evidence shows that Black and Latino people have lower rates for SUD treatment utilization compared to white people. Emerging evidence shows peers can provide culturally appropriate services — grounded in relationships built on empathy, trust, and shared experiences — to address these disparities. States that invest in peer supports and other evidence-based services can achieve higher engagement rates in SUD treatment and other necessary services among these and other key populations.

Drawing from State Principles for Financing Substance Use Care, Treatment, and Support Services, this checklist identifies four areas for states to explore as they consider expanding peer supports for people with SUD:

  1. Assess the status of publicly financed peer support services;
  2. Identify strategies to grow the peer workforce;
  3. Select approaches to embed peer supports across the SUD continuum of care; and
  4. Target peer supports to address SUD care inequities.

The checklist is part of a series detailing practical steps to guide state policy development aimed at strengthening substance use disorder (SUD) treatment systems, with a focus on sustainability and equity. It draws from the report State Principles for Financing Substance Use Care, Treatment, and Support Services. The report and series were developed by the Center for Health Care Strategies through a partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.