Working as a Peer in Recovery

Peers in Recovery are critical in bridging this implementation gap for warm handoffs. Peers in Recovery, known by many other titles for example Certified Recovery Specialists, provide non-clinical support to people living with substance use disorders who are seeking recovery assistance. Peers in Recovery’s lived experience with addiction and recovery means that they can offer insightful support for personal goal setting and navigating the recovery process, including steps to improve their “accrual” of recovery capital– the internal and external resources necessary to begin and maintain recovery. Core activities include system navigation, supporting behavior change, harm reduction, and relationship building. They also provide referrals and support for treatment, housing, transportation, employment, drug court proceedings, and probation. Peer support has been associated with increased treatment adherence, prevention of HIV and HCV, and risky drug use. Click here for more general information on the valuable work of peers.

The Penn Center for Addiction Medicine and Policy has seen dramatic successes with our Peer in Recovery led model. We have Peers in Recovery working in all Penn downtown EDs who are highly experienced with patient engagement, MOUD treatment, social and health system service navigation, and harm reduction. They are fully integrated into the ED care team and are highly valued by ED staff. In addition, we have leveraged technology to amplify Peers in Recovery reach by using an algorithm that scans EHR data and automatically notifies Peers in Recovery staff of patients in need of a consult. Since scaling up Peers in Recovery involvement in our ED in 2019, we have seen substantial increases in initiation of buprenorphine in the ED (3.5-fold). For those patients who received buprenorphine and a Peers in Recovery consult, we see high levels of engagement in treatment at 30 days (68%). The work of Penn’s Peers in Recovery has been presented at local, statewide, and national venues and recognized in a wide variety of media including The New York Times, USA Today, and Freakonomics Radio. We earned a Patient Safety Award in 2019 from the Health Care Improvement Foundation.


We created materials to leverage the key features of our Peers in Recovery team with the goal of assisting other Emergency Departments and health systems seeking guidance and support in developing similar programs to augment substance use treatment in hospital settings.

View our Webinar Series on Peer Recovery Specialists and Implementing Warm Handoffs

Supporting Patients with OUD through Peer Outreach and Telehealth

lessons learned from COVID-19

Changing Culture in the Health System with Peers

experiences with integrating peers into a healthcare team and destigmatizing substance use

Communicating Multiple Pathways to Recovery for People with OUD

normalizing medications for substance use as an option for recovery

We created an implementation toolkit designed for organizations, specifically emergency rooms, to hire, train, and peers in recovery. This toolkit focuses on a structured form of peer support that fosters recovery from substance use.  Download our sections on finding, preparing, and supporting recovery peers for their role in your organization. 
Visit our peers, California Bridge Program for additional trainings for Substance Use Navigators including a toolkit designed for Substance Use Navigators joining a new team.