University of Maryland, School of Social Work
Peer Recovery Research Specialist
SCIENCE OF RECOVERY: Flash Session
Promoting Effective Peer Workforce Integration: The Importance of Clear Peer Roles, Stigma Reduction, and Fair Compensation
As a vital part of the substance use recovery support system, peer delivered services have been
associated with numerous consumer benefits. As numbers of peers have grown across settings,
barriers to peer workforce integration (PWI) have become evident, creating strain on peers, and
impeding full maximization of peer-derived benefits. This position paper examines components
of effective PWI, barriers to its implementation, and strategies to address these obstacles.
This inquiry was conducted by IRIS university staff and a diverse group of 17 Fellows, consisting
of peers, clinicians, managers, and academics learning about peer-focused, community-engaged
recovery research. IRIS’ position paper was grounded in Fellows’ practice and lived experience, a
review of academic and grey literature, and themes derived from interviews with 9 key peer
Effective PWI may be defined as fostering a culture of mutual respect, creating clarity around
peer roles, and providing wages and benefits aligned with peers' value. Identified barriers were:
1) under-recognized benefits of peer services, 2) lack of clarity of peer role, 3) stigma towards
peers, 4) poor and unsustainable peer financing and 5) lack of centralized entity for PWI
coordination. Strategies for effective PWI were: 1) build on evidence base for peer services, 2)
better prepare peers and organizations for PWI, 3) interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration,
4) provide greater financial security for peers, 5) expand peer-delivered peer supervision, and 6)
develop centralized coordination for PWI.
As calls for greater PWI are made and resources allocated to meet this demand, it is imperative
to conduct this expansion effectively in a way that honors peers’ value and supports their wellbeing. This peer-centered, research-based position paper may be used to inform organizational
and systemic PWI, inter-disciplinary advocacy efforts, and further research with a full national
scope, as Fellows’ and stakeholders’ perspectives were primarily Maryland-based.
Sofia Quinn is a peer researcher at University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Social Work, where she works on the grant Innovations in Recovery Through Infrastructure Support (IRIS). She is a facilitator for the IRIS Recovery Research Fellowship and one of the leaders for the IRIS Recovery Research Fellowship Position Paper on peer workforce integration.
Prior to joining the IRIS team, Sofia worked as a youth peer specialist at a non-profit peer-run organization in South Florida. As a young Asian American woman in recovery, Sofia is passionate about promoting youth recovery and peer support. Through her work with homeless and incarcerated youth, she has seen the incredible impact that peer support can have in empowering individuals and helping them transform their lives. Sofia graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Florida and is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work degree with a focus in clinical social work.