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The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) is expanding all California’s behavioral health professions, including the behavioral health workforce. The commitment is to improve and expand access to behavioral health services throughout the state to allow productive participation. As part of this enhancement, DHCS contracted with Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. (AHP) to implement the Behavioral Health Workforce Development (BHWD) project.

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DHCS is expanding California’s behavioral health (BH) workforce to improve access, engagement, and productive participation in BH services for individuals and communities throughout the state. Through the Behavioral Health Workforce Development (BHWD) projects, DHCS aims to diversify and enhance the BH workforce across geography, race, ethnicity, language, culture, sexual orientation, gender identification, and other provider characteristics to improve access to BH services by ensuring that communities find themselves represented in their care providers.  Efforts to fund equity and growth in the BH workforce are progressing through four projects: Peer Workforce Investment (PWI), Expanding Peer Organization Capacity (EPOC), the Mentored Internship Program (MIP) and the impending Recruitment and Retention project, slated for launch in Summer 2023.

The EPOC project helps emerging peer organizations build their infrastructure and capacity to deliver peer recovery supports for individuals with mental health challenges and substance use disorders. It also enables organizations to prepare for state peer certification, which will be tied to the ability to bill Medi-Cal for peer services. California’s peer-run BH programs are well positioned to support this workforce expansion through their pivotal role of facilitating access to care, retention of services, delivery of recovery supports, and advocacy for fellow consumers throughout recovery. A peer is an individual who self-identifies as having lived experience with the process of recovery from mental illness, substance use disorder (SUD), or both, either as a consumer of services related to these conditions, or as the parent or family member of the consumer.

Round 1 grantees are newly established (after 2019) non-profits that are run by peers. These include peer-led programs, groups, and coalitions of peers in California that, with the benefit of this start-up and infrastructure funding, can emerge to significantly contribute to behavioral health services in the near future as entities. Grant funding covers

  • Start up and development costs of the peer-run organization
  • Outreach, collaboration, and improvement in service accessibility
  • Development of peer workforce and enhancement of the quality of peer-run programming
  • Systems management and operations
  • Create of supportive peer facilities

Round 1 of the EPOC project runs September 1, 2021, to December 31, 2023, and supports 14 emerging peer service providers across 10 California counties.

The map below shows county distribution of grantees.

A map of California, broken into counties, showing grants given from the Expanding Peer Organization Capacity program.