We promised to get back to you with a report following the peer leadership meeting held this fall. The meeting took place in Toronto near the end of October. It was the last one being funded by the Mental Health Commission of Canada as part of the Peer Project initiative that began in 2010. The project was reoriented last April and it is slated to end in the spring of 2013. However, we can assure you that Peer Support Accreditation and Certification (Canada) [PSACC] lives on as an enduring legacy of the innovative work we accomplished together over the last two years!
The peer leadership meeting was a very productive one. Most of the regional peer support representatives from across the country were there and other advisors to PSACC also attended the meeting. We had a packed agenda of things we wanted to accomplish together and we made good progress on a number of fronts. We’re pleased to share the highlights with you in this inaugural Steps Forward report.
Since the meeting was taking place six months after PSACC began operations, we felt the timing was right to conduct a PSACC mission and vision development exercise. Together we re-examined what PSACC was created to do, and why, and we also envisaged what the ideal future would look like as a result of our work. While it was not expected that we would be able to finalize the mission and vision statements in the time we had allotted at the meeting, the exercise did make us reflect on the foundational and inspirational guides for our organization’s success.
We also discussed expanding the Board of Directors of PSACC. The primary roles of the governing board are to provide direction, approve and monitor budgets, ensure capacity to pursue goals and assess the results of PSACC’s work in relation to what it was created to accomplish. The discussion also included the requirement to establish a Certification Board. The role of this latter board is very different from that of the Board of Directors. The members of the Certification Board are involved in establishing certification procedures, reviewing applications to determine if the mandatory requirements have been met by aspiring candidates, and approving individual certifications.
Participants at the meeting identified the criteria that should be used to select members for both boards. The purpose was to develop a decision-making matrix that could be utilized to help select members best representing the interests of PSACC and the community across Canada that it serves.
Members of the Board of Directors are volunteers and their role is not to manage the day-to-day activities of the organization. A pressing need was identified to hire an administrator to take care of daily operations so that the governance board can focus its attention on the strategic direction and priorities of PSACC.
Three sub-committees participated in separate workshops over two days to: 1) review the knowledge standard requirements in view of the exam that needs to be created for certification; 2) address issues of accessibility and diversity in regards to national certification; and 3) begin the development of a communications strategy and stakeholder engagement plan for PSACC.
The final assignment for the regional support leadership team and the other PSACC advisors was to develop a three-year implementation plan to fully establish PSACC. Although meeting participants were separated into different groups to work on this task, there was a high degree of congruence among the groups – not only about what needs to be done but also the order and timing in which the required activities should occur.
Before the meeting ended, the regional peer support leadership team discussed how and when they could hold future meetings since funding to organize and attend in-person meetings is a concern. Acknowledging the fact that each time the team meets the work of PSACC is significantly advanced, it was agreed there is a need for the regional peer support leadership group to continue working together. The team hopes to meet again in the spring so avenues to obtain funding will be explored to make it happen.
Update on activities
- A peer support program is now well underway in the first workplace evaluation site. The pilot allowed us to test the fundamentals of the standards of practice and the research evaluation tools.
- The electronic storage database to support the evaluation research study has been built and refinements continue to be made to the system. Building this research platform has been a major undertaking and we are pleased to report that the bulk of this work has now been completed.
- The current priority is to finalize the design and construction of the certification process based on the standards of practice. The standards consist of the mandatory requirements, i.e., the core competencies, experience, knowledge and code of conduct standard that must be met to obtain a national certification.
- A fair and defensible tool to assess the core competencies has been identified and its suitability as an assessment instrument will be further investigated. In addition, construction of an exam to test knowledge should get underway in the coming weeks.
- A Candidates’ Handbook on how to apply for certification is currently under development but it can only be completed once the certification process has been finalized and tested.
The August 2012 communiqué announcing the creation of PSACC included an email address to contact PSACC (firstname.lastname@example.org). Since then we have received a number of emails from individuals asking when they can apply for certification. As you can see from the foregoing update, there remains a substantial amount of work to be done before PSACC can begin to nationally certify peer supporters. Please keep in mind that the work done so far has been accomplished thanks to the time and efforts of volunteers.
We will keep you informed of progress via periodic Steps Forward reports. PSACC and your regional peer support representatives need you to be there solidly by our sides to achieve what we set out to do together. Your continued interest and support is what keeps us going!
The holiday season is quickly approaching – we hope it is a happy time for you, your family & friends and we send our sincere wishes that the New Year will be one of well-being and good health for everyone.
Peer Support Accreditation and Certification (Canada)