LivAbility Magazine
ASU Partnership

The Arizona Department of Health Services/Division of Behavioral Health awarded a two-year contract to the Arizona State University Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy (ASU CABHP) to coordinate a Peer Career Advancement Academy.

The purpose of this academy is to provide advanced training opportunities to certified Peer Specialists, those individuals in recovery from mental illness and/or addiction who are employed by behavioral health care providers.

PCAA offers four training tracks for Peer Specialists on specific career paths within the behavioral health field – Supported Housing, Advocating, Health and Wellness, and Supported Employment. Each course consists of a minimum of 24 hours of classroom training, homework, job shadowing opportunities and follow-up learning circles with the graduates.

Peer support services have been shown to facilitate recovery and reduce health care costs.

Findings on the use of peer support have documented reductions in hospitalizations, improved social functioning, reduced substance use, and improved quality of life.
ASU CABHP and Ability360 have a shared vision to help people realize their potential. Traditionally people who receive services from a behavioral health care provider are unemployed or underemployed. They typically are trying to survive on Social Security benefits, which are below federal poverty levels. Supported Employment is an evidence-based practice to assist people who have disabilities find a job and/or remain employed.

“Many people who have disabilities and receive Social Security benefits don’t work at their full potential due to the fear and confusion related to Social Security,” says Nicholas Love, who manages Ability360’s Benefits 2 Work program, which educates on the complexity of Social Security rules and promotes employment. “This makes a partnership between ASU CABHP and Ability360 a natural fit.”

Love helped create the Supported Employment curriculum for the Peer Career Advancement Academy, serving as the Academy’s subject expert on disability benefits. On November 5, 2015, Ability360 and ASU CABHP partnered to conduct its first Disability Benefits 101 (DB101) training of 14 students from across Arizona during the Introduction to Supported Employment course. Nicholas delivered the curriculum with passion for his work in helping others who have disabilities find and keep competitive employment by understanding Social Security benefits. He shared his knowledge on health coverage, benefits, and employment, as well as conducting a Disability Benefits 101 (DB101) train-the-trainer session. All 14 of the students plus 2 instructors passed the DB101 competency and are now qualified as trainers of DB101.

“This is a great collaboration between state agencies, community service providers and advocates to build a program from the ground up with community input,” says Vicki Staples, Associate Director for Clinical Initiatives for the CABHP, which is part of the School of Social Work in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“We are expanding opportunities for people in the community and know that we’ll need to provide additional peer-delivered services in these areas,” Staples continues. “Ongoing community support is critical to its future.”

Ability360 is excited about its new partnership with ASU to help disseminate information on how individuals who have disabilities can plan ahead and learn how work and benefits go together.

For more information about the ASU Peer Career Advancement Academy, contact Vicki Staples at