NCTIC Virtual Learning Network Invitation

NCTIC Virtual Learning Network Invitation

Integrating Peer Support into Your Organization

January - September 2017


SAMHSA's National Center for Trauma-Informed Care and Alternatives to Restraint and Seclusion (NCTIC) is pleased to announce the opportunity to participate in an upcoming Virtual Learning Network (VLN): "Integrating Peer Support into Your Organization."

Over the last 10 years, two overlapping developments in behavioral health services have seen exponential growth. First, peer support has increasingly been incorporated as an integral component of the behavioral health service delivery system to promote recovery, wellness, and resiliency. Second, more and more community behavioral health and allied service and health agencies and organizations are seeking to develop trauma-informed approaches in the way they deliver services. Concurrently, state and local systems are looking at new ways to address adverse childhood experiences, child abuse and neglect, bullying, interpersonal violence, sexual and gender-based violence, community violence, and more.

In response to these trends, more and more states have developed peer specialist training and certification requirements, and have identified sustained mechanisms for reimbursing peer support services, whether through Medicaid waiver programs, managed care, block grant, or other financing approaches. On the other hand, systematic efforts to help organizations integrate peer support in a trauma-informed manner have been spotty, whether in leadership support, policy development, staff buy-in, clarity of roles, recruitment and hiring, or supervision and staff retention.

The purpose of this VLN is to help participating organizations effectively integrate, implement, and sustain peer supports using a trauma-informed approach as part of a broader effort to become a trauma-informed organization.


This "working" classroom event consists of monthly facilitated virtual classroom presentations on the Adobe® ConnectTM platform. Course work and materials will help participants to understand and implement the principles of trauma-informed approaches and facilitate meaningful peer involvement. Sessions include a collaborative partnership with VLN colleagues - sharing challenges and innovations with other group members. Participants will also have access to ongoing coaching and may be able to receive on-site technical assistance.

Each organization will include two or more key staff members who will form an active virtual learning team and oversee implementation of peer integration in their respective organizations. These staff members should be viewed as recovery champions by their colleagues and hold decision making capacity. It is recommended that at least one of the participants self-identify as a trauma survivor and/or a person in recovery.

This VLN will:

  1. Explore SAMHSA's principles of trauma-informed care and implementation domains;
  2. Share best practices and practical perspectives on peer integration through diverse guest presentations;
  3. Identify the opportunities and barriers to meaningful involvement of peers throughout all levels of the organization or program;
  4. Help participating organizations formulate action plans for increased peer integration; and
  5. Provide individualized technical assistance to help organizations implement their action plans and sustain changes over time.


The VLN will be held from January - September 2017, with the following schedule:

  • December 2016 - Solicit applications and select applicants
  • January 2017 - Introductory webinar/virtual classroom
  • February - July 2017 - Facilitated discussion and guest presentations introducing:
    • The principles of trauma-informed approaches;
    • The domains of trauma-informed organizational change; and
    • Best practices in peer integration within these domains.
  • August - September 2017 - Participants present Action Plans to the group


Leah Harris, M.A. has written and spoken widely about her lived experiences of trauma, addiction, serious mental health challenges, and healing/resilience. Leah is passionate about promoting trauma-informed approaches across systems, sectors, and communities. Leah works with the National Association for State Mental Health Program Directors' (NASMHPD) where she is currently employed as Peer Integration Strategist. She provides training and technical assistance through SAMHSA's National Center for Trauma Informed Care (NCTIC), and has worked with numerous organizations across the U.S. in her capacity as a Trauma-Informed Peer Support trainer. She is also a suicide attempt survivor who works to promote a trauma-informed approach to suicide prevention/intervention, and is a faculty member with the Zero Suicide initiative.

Melody Riefer, M.S.W., is a senior program manager at Advocates Human Potential, Inc. (AHP). During her more than 30-year career, she has worked as a practitioner, manager, educator, consultant and advocate -accruing expertise in policy and organizational development, service delivery systems, and implementation sciences. Before joining AHP, Melody worked as a trainer and consultant focusing on recovery support services and systems. Her projects included developing implementation and training protocols for shared decision making, consulting with state and local behavioral health authorities; developing infrastructure solutions for statewide mental health consumer networks, and creating curricula for certification and training processes for peer delivered services. She is a highly sought after trainer and public speaker, reaching across multiple disciplines and venues. Her professional work is grounded in her personal experience within the behavioral healthcare system as an individual and family member and knowing that living one's life to the fullest should always be the expected outcome.


1. Readiness for change. This might include:

a. Level of leadership commitment

b. Capacity to devote leadership and staff time

  1. Ability to participate in all meetings using videoconferencing (includes virtual classrooms, consultation calls with assigned coach, and on-site training
  2. Ability to develop an action plan focused on implementation of TIA principles
  3. Willingness to identify and report on action plan progress during group and coaching calls
  4. Download and read SAMHSA's Concept of Trauma and Guidance for A Trauma-Informed Approach.


Please email Leah Harris at if you have questions, or to submit your letter of intent to participate in the VLN.

Please include the following information:

  • Assigned point of contact from your organization along with the names, titles, and complete contact information for each member of the team.
  • A brief description of your organization.
  • A stated agreement to participate in this process and to share progress and challenges with other VLN members. Please include a brief statement indication how you will meet the participation criteria noted above.
  • A statement on any current challenges and/or opportunities regarding your organization's efforts toward meaningful peer integration.

We look forward to working with you to help agencies implement SAMHSA's TIA principles and create sustainable change.

Please respond by Friday, January 6, 2017 with your letter of intent.