Peer support services for substance use care led to reduced acute care utilization among select managed care members in Pennsylvania.
Peer support services are delivered by individuals with lived experience of behavioral health (mental health or substance use disorder [SUD]) conditions to support individuals and foster wellness and recovery. This study examined how health care utilization differed between members of a behavioral health managed care organization in Pennsylvania with recent acute service who received SUD peer supports as opposed to a matched comparison group. Utilization was measured for 90 days following discharge or the beginning of peer supports.
People who received SUD peer supports had lower intensive acute care use (hospitalization and withdrawal management) than the comparison group. Additionally, a significant number of those who received peer supports accessed outpatient SUD care and mental health services, as a large percentage of the study population had co-occurring mental health diagnoses.
Use of SUD peer support services shows evidence of reducing acute care utilization during and for three-months after these services are delivered, and also may support individuals in accessing needed behavioral health services. Peer supports are a key part of the continuum of services for SUD care, though they are not currently reimbursed in Medicare as well as some state Medicaid programs.