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Dr. Ben Druss on Peer Support

Benjamin Druss is Professor and Rosalynn Carter Chair in mental health in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University.  As one of only a handful of psychiatrists in the country based in a school of public health, Dr. Druss is working to integrate mental health, physical health, and public health.  His research has focused on understanding and improving access, quality, and outcomes of care for populations with serious mental illnesses and medical comorbidity. This work has included epidemiological studies; intervention trials; and health policy and public health research.  Dr. Druss serves on the Editorial Boards of JAMA Psychiatry and the American Journal of Psychiatry, and was a member of the NIMH National Advisory Mental Health Council from 2014-19. In 2018, he was awarded the American Public Health Association's Carl Taube Award for Lifetime Contribution to the Field of Mental Health. The Statement and Evidence Base below were provided to GMHCN in response to proposed State of Georgia behavioral health budget cuts.

Statement from Dr. Ben Druss

The Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network (GMHCN) is widely recognized as the national leader in developing and implementing peer support programs in the United States. So many “firsts” in the peer support movement happened here in Georgia –the first certified peer specialist training program, the first Medicaid-reimbursable peer mental health service, the first Medicaid-reimbursable service for peer-led whole health care coaching.  But this list does not fully capture many ways in which the peer workforce, and GMHCN, is woven into the fabric of mental health care within the state.  The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities has long been committed to including the consumer voice in setting policies and planning mental health and substance use programs across the state. 


During this unprecedented public health crisis, peer-led training and programs are more important than ever to help consumers on the path towards wellbeing and recovery. Continued support for peer-led trainings and services during this period is a short-term investment that will yield long-term benefits for Georgia’s mental health consumers, peer workforce, and community mental health providers.

The Evidence Base from Dr. Ben Druss

There is clear and compelling evidence supporting the effectiveness and benefits of peer-delivered services. Care delivered by peer specialists has been found to as good or better than care delivered by professional staff in similar roles at improving a wide range of mental health outcomes. (1-3) Peer specialists engage people in caring relationships (4) increase hope, empowerment, and quality of life,(1, 5) and improve skills in self-management of mental health and medical conditions.(6-8) Finally, peer services can reduce use of inpatient services and improve overall efficiency and cost-effectiveness of care. (9-11)


1. Davidson L, Bellamy C, Guy K, Miller R. Peer support among persons with severe mental illnesses: a review of evidence and experience. World Psychiatry. 2012;11(2):123-8. PubMed PMID: 22654945; PMCID: 3363389.


2. Chinman M, George P, Dougherty RH, Daniels AS, Ghose SS, Swift A, Delphin-Rittmon ME. Peer support services for individuals with serious mental illnesses: assessing the evidence. Psychiatr Serv. 2014;65(4):429-41. doi: 10.1176/ PubMed PMID: 24549400.


3. Pitt V, Lowe D, Hill S, Prictor M, Hetrick SE, Ryan R, Berends L. Consumer-providers of care for adult clients of statutory mental health services. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2013;3:CD004807. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004807.pub2. PubMed PMID: 23543537.


4. Felton CJ, Stastny P, Shern DL, Blanch A, Donahue SA, Knight E, Brown C. Consumers as peer specialists on intensive case management teams: impact on client outcomes. Psychiatr Serv. 1995.


5. Davidson L, Bellamy C, Chinman M, Farkas M, Ostrow L, Cook JA, Jonikas JA, Rosenthal H, Bergeson S, Daniels AS. Revisiting the rationale and evidence for peer support. Psychiatr Times. 2018;35(6):1-3.


6. Druss BG, Zhao LP, von Esenwein SA, Bona JR, Fricks L, Jenkins-Tucker S, Sterling E, DiClemente R, Lorig K. The Health and Recovery Peer (HARP) Program: A peer-led intervention to improve medical self-management for persons with serious mental illness. Schizophr Res. 2010;118(1-3):264-70. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2010.01.026. PubMed PMID: WOS:000278214500038.


7. Druss BG, Singh M, von Esenwein SA, Glick GE, Tapscott S, Tucker SJ, Lally CA, Sterling EW. Peer-Led Self-Management of General Medical Conditions for Patients With Serious Mental Illnesses: A Randomized Trial. Psychiatr Serv. 2018;69(5):529-35. Epub 2018/02/02. doi: 10.1176/ PubMed PMID: 29385952; PMCID: PMC5930018.


8. Cook JA, Copeland ME, Jonikas JA, Hamilton MM, Razzano LA, Grey DD, Floyd CB, Hudson WB, Macfarlane RT, Carter TM. Results of a randomized controlled trial of mental illness self-management using Wellness Recovery Action Planning. Schizophr Bull. 2012;38(4):881-91.


9. Sledge WH, Lawless M, Sells D, Wieland M, O'Connell MJ, Davidson L. Effectiveness of peer support in reducing readmissions of persons with multiple psychiatric hospitalizations. Psychiatr Serv. 2011;62(5):541-4. Epub 2011/05/03. doi: 10.1176/ps.62.5.pss6205_0541. PubMed PMID: 21532082.


10. Croft B, İsvan N. Impact of the 2nd story peer respite program on use of inpatient and emergency services. Psychiatr Serv. 2015;66(6):632-7.


11. O'Connell MJ, Sledge WH, Staeheli M, Sells D, Costa M, Wieland M, Davidson L. Outcomes of a peer mentor intervention for persons with recurrent psychiatric hospitalization. Psychiatr Serv. 2018;69(7):760-7.

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