UMass Chan Medical School — Statewide Community Services Peer-Support Specialists

Project Summary
Through in-person and online training, the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School and Strategic Education Solutions connected people with developmental disabilities (DD) with peer-support specialists. The specialists received training to become mentors and developed leadership, problem-solving, and collaboration skills. Participants benefited from peer-support training related to employment, independent living, self-esteem, and other topics. The project also conducted online training through a web-based platform that provided accessible educational content.

TCDD supported this project to increase access to information and training for people with DD, families, and caregivers to advocate for themselves and collaborate with allies to impact public policy, service systems, and community supports.

Project Highlights

  • The project trained 24 peer-support specialists who provided more than 600 hours of one-on-one mentorship to people with DD.
  • Project staff developed videos featuring peer-support specialists giving advice on topics such as employment, independent living, and transportation.
  • The project team shared project details and accomplishments to a peer-support subcommittee at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
  • Two peer-support specialists drafted and advocated for new legislation to create a statewide work group that would develop standards and training for peer-support programs that can be covered by Medicaid.  


Personal Impact Stories

One peer-support specialist worked with a client who had extreme social anxiety and difficulty communicating. After the client had a particularly challenging experience at a local store, the peer-support specialist came up with an idea to create a wallet card that the client could use to explain his disability and communication preferences to other people. This card proved to be a successful strategy and helped the client build confidence in talking with other people. He was even comfortable enough to speak to a crowd of people about his YouTube channel during an event at a local disability organization. Not only was the client supported through the project, but his peer-support specialist felt a sense of pride and accomplishment as his mentor.

The project strengthened connections between people with DD in Beaumont and led to more interest in learning from their peers. A program manager from a local disability organization said: “The change for the existing group of self-advocates was that they saw how the program changed the people in peer support. They saw the new feeling of ‘I can do it’ and found more self-worth. It made the rest of the group want to do more.”

Project Period
May 2019 to April 2023

Geographic Reach

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