Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) P.O.W.E.R.+ Initiative

We are excited and pleased to announce that the Pennsylvania Peer Support Coalition has received $1 million from Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (P.O.W.E.R.) Initiative!

We will use this support to aid in the development of our peer workforce across the ARC region of PA. Through this initiative 250 new CPS’s will be trained over the 3 year project and continuing education will be provided to ANY peer based professional at no cost through our 10 regional Recovery Ecosystem Coalitions (RECs). Additionally, funding for 10 peer based professionals will be provided to obtain their Opioid Treatment Specialist (OTS) certificate through Clarion University. This will aid in starting, or continuing, their pursuit of a college degree while preparing them to better serve a variety of individuals.

Our project named Building a Peer Support Workforce in Pennsylvania is one of 51 P.O.W.E.R. projects aimed at strengthening and diversifying Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at for more information.

Listen to Keith Elders, our ARC Project Director, in a radio interview explaining more about the PaPSC and this project.

Workforce Development

Part one of the grant will train 250 peer specialists within the 52 county ARC region of Pennsylvania, with a focus on professional development and retention by providing an additional layer of support both before and after the state exam.

If you are a newly trained (after October 1, 2020) or are planning on becoming trained as a Certified Peer Specialist and reside in one of the below 52 counties and would like information on participating in this grant, please contact us at

Benefits for Participants:

  • State exam study guide ($50 value)
  • Free access to online practice exam portal ($25 value)
  • Sharing recovery with others
  • Continuing education provided for 3 yrs at no cost
  • Access to Recovery Ecosystem Coalitions that support professional development
  • Memberships to PMHCA and PaPSC free for 3 years ($135 value)
  • Engagement in a workforce that promotes, supports, and sustains long-term recovery
  • Connection with Peer Support values
  • Ongoing support in managing your longterm wellness
  • Potential to obtain Opioid Treatment Specialist Certificate through Clarion University
  • Strengthened job prospects and credentials

Eligible Pennsylvania Counties: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Bradford, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Luzerne, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Mifflin, Monroe, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Somerset, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland, and Wyoming

Recovery Ecosystem Coalitions (REC)

Part two of the grant, our Recovery Ecosystem Coalitions (REC), will be regional, self-governed coalitions that determine areas of focus within that region. There will be 10 RECs within the 52 county ARC region of Pennsylvania. All peer professionals (CPS, CPSS, CRS, CFRS, Family Peer Specialists, etc.) are welcome to attend the REC meetings regardless of county of residence.

RECs will Provide:

  • Networking for all Peer Based Professionals
  • Pennsylvania Certification Board Approved Continuing Education
  • Leadership Development
  • Training and Facilitation Opportunities
  • Self-Care
  • Strengthening the Peer Voice Statewide
  • Regional Leadership Structures for Peer Based Professionals

If you are interested in helping lead your Regional Ecosystem Coalition or would like information about attending a local REC meeting please contact our REC Coordinator, Jason Rilogio, at or 717-719-0488.

Opioid Treatment Specialist (OTS) Certificate – Clarion University

The number of opioid-related deaths in the United States continues to climb. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in 42,249 deaths in 2016. Of all of the opioid-related deaths, 40 percent were from prescription opioids. The problem hasn’t missed Pennsylvania as the commonwealth was fourth in the nation in drug overdose deaths in 2016. Clarion University has responded to the growing opioid epidemic by creating an online Opioid Treatment Specialist Certificate. Faculty experts in addictions, rehabilitation, social work, counseling, psychology and nursing contributed to the design of the certificate, which provides advanced information on opioid abuse and its prevention, education and treatment.

Through a unique partnership with Clarion University, PaPSC will fund 10 individuals in obtaining their OTS certificate which will aid these Certified Peer Specialists in serving a more diverse population, including those with co-occuring substance use conditions. Upon completion of the certificate program, these 10 CPSs will have 12 college credits from Clarion University.

PaPSC feels that peer based professionals and their unique lived experience perspective stand to have a large impact in serving this population. For eligibility information please contact our Project Director, Keith R. Elders, at or 717-719-0739.

Support for Youth and Young Adults

Through a unique partnership with the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association (PMHCA) and as part of this grant, the PaPSC has been able to fund a new position at PMHCA for a Youth and Young Adult/Call for Change Coordinator. This new position will allow PMHCA, PaPSC, and Youth Move PA to coordinate efforts in supporting the youth and young adult population and the peer professionals who work with them. For questions relating to this part of the ARC grant please contact Kevin Puskaric at or 717-719-0433

As part of this collaboration a new support group, Thrive for Hope, has been created for youth and young adults (ages 16 – 29). Click here to go to our Support Groups page for more information on this and other available support groups.